Happy National Poetry Month! I hope this month you get a chance to read more poetry, write more, if you like, and pay attention to your life in a way that helps you slow down and make meaning. I decided to write a little series of blog posts on poetry interactions, and here’s the first one 🙂 Last summer, I wanted to invest in my poetry writing, and I had time and energy during my daughter’s daily afternoon naps. I wanted to read more and write more and, ideally, publish more. In the past I have attempted to write poetry every single day, as I know many writers’ guides suggest. However, for me, I have tried that time and time again and failed miserably. I end up staring at a blank page not knowing what to write about and often leaving the page blank and losing motivation. Often as a young poet I would read a few poems to get “warmed up,” but they left me thinking “I could never write something as good as that” and again I would not have accomplished my writing goal.
So last July I challenged myself instead to *interact* with poetry every day. This was a very broad definition for me. I could write something new, revise, listen to part or all of a poetry / writing podcast (like On Being or Commonplace: Conversations with Poets and Other People), submit some poems, read Poets & Writers, read from a book of poems, or just read one poem and that would “count.” I use a bullet journal, so I left a blank page after my monthly calendar page and numbered the days of the month. I would then track what I had done each day. These interactions lead me out of my writing slump and got me generating a lot of new material.
I ended up reading more than a dozen full length collections from July to December, and found some poets who I really admire. If you are looking for amazing local poetry to read, SDSPS provides plenty of options. Many of you know that our Poet Laureate Christine Stewart edited the collection South Dakota in Poems, which was published last fall. That’s a fantastic book to read and feel that sense of community with writers in the state. Many of you also know that SDSPS also publishes two anthologies each year, a fall and spring Pasque Petals and a contest-winning chapbook. I always enjoy getting these in the mail and reading what SD writers are thinking about and working on. We mail these to our members with their membership fee. To purchase any of these books or a membership, check out our shop page.
If you are looking for a new full length collection to read, the books I most recommend from the ones I read are: Dilruba Ahmad’s Bring Now the Angels, Ada Limon’s The Carrying, Jericho Brown’s The Tradition, Ellen Bass’s Indigo and Mary Oliver’s Blue Horses. These books cover a range of topics and all include gut-wrenching, captivating poetry. I also attended a virtual reading for an anthology about the pandemic: Together in a Sudden Strangeness: America’s Poets Respond to the Pandemic, edited by Alice Quinn. I highly recommend this book because it’s been hard for me to write about the pandemic in real time. These poems resonated one after the other.
Why not read the poems out loud to family? I spend all my time with my daughter, so naturally I read some poetry out loud to her. She was around 18 months last summer, and I remember her reciting some of the words back to me, and it catching me off guard. Some of these even became part of her daily vocabulary. I just love this because not only have various poems and poets shaped how I look at the world and what metaphors I see, but this beautiful, distilled language gets to impact her language development, and I get a front seat. I of course also share my favorite poems with my husband and anyone else who will listen 🙂
To hear more work read by local poets, why not attend our virtual poetry reading? We will have a virtual poetry reading on April 17 from 7-9 pm. We will first open up the floor to those whose work was published in the fall 2020 Pasque Petals which was just mailed to members, and then we will also have the opportunity for people to read up to three poems that were not published in that anthology. We have a FB event set up for this, and we hope to connect SD poets through this reading. See you there!
By Jodi Andrews, MA