Reading Poetry | Pexels
April 2021 marks the 25th annual National Poetry Month which celebrates poets from all walks of life and the art they create.
The celebration began in 1996 from efforts of the Academy of American Poets, who wished to spread awareness and appreciation of poetry throughout the United States. The success of Black History Month and Women’s History Month contributed to the month’s establishment.
Two years later in 1998, Canada began observing the poetic festivities as well.
Observing the celebration
Many events are held throughout the Miami Valley area and across the world to celebrate poets during April. The Dayton Metro Library is holding a poetry contest until April 30, inviting patrons to submit poems fit for a general audience.
The Greene County Public Libraries have created displays of their poetry books and invited patrons to create found poems based on different lines located in books.
“It’s really a fun experiment for people who just want to give [poetry] a try and play around with language,” Head Librarian of the Fairborn Community Library Ann Cooper said.
Within the larger event is National Poetry Writing Month, or NaPoWriMo, where each day, poets receive different writing prompts that they can use to write poems.
WSU alum Johnathon Gallienne sees National Poetry Month as a time for educators to set aside to focus on teaching poetry.
“They can touch on everything from the sonnets of William Shakespeare, to someone like Emily Dickinson, into the slam poetry scene and even song lyrics,” Gallienne said. “It provides an opportunity to step away from the novel, which is what I recall being the main focus of the non-specialized English classes I was in in high school and college.”
The process of poetry writing
Poetry professor Chris DeWeese shares the ways in which poetry can be created.
“For some, the main pleasure of learning about writing poetry comes from the permission I give them to approach reading poems not as riddles to be deciphered but as experiences to be enjoyed and then understood,” DeWeese said.
Other times, students can create a well-crafted piece after many attempts. Being able to do this takes a large amount of patience and work.
“Sometimes a lot of that work is clearing away one’s preconceptions about how a poem ought to behave, in order to let the writing of the poem surprise oneself,” DeWeese said.
Playing with language
Poems come in a variety of forms. Some forms involve rhyme schemes, while others invite writers to experiment with unrhymed, free-verse lines. Each lets the writer play with metaphors and other types of language to create visuals in their readers’ minds.
The language of poetry has changed significantly between ancient times and the modern age, though poets from all ages have responded to the world around them with imagination and energy.
“The Roman poet Gaius Valerius Catullus was writing scandalous invectives in 70 B.C. that I think would kill today if he performed them at an open mic night,” DeWeese said.
Venturing into poetry allows individuals to gain inspiration from the mundane and a greater appreciation for the works of their fellow storytellers.
“When you see someone in the slam scene perform a piece that they wrote that means the world to them, you gain a better understanding of who they are as a person, and that in turn, hopefully, expands your view of what we as a people can be,” Gallienne said.