We’re reaching the end of National Poetry Month, and although it’s not safe to attend live readings at the moment, there are plenty of ways to celebrate while social distancing.
Here are four easy ways to get in the poetic spirit this April:
1. Watch poetry readings online.
Any poetry fan can attest to the magic of attending a live performance. There’s something so intimate about hearing an author read their work aloud; often tucked into small bars and coffee shops, such gatherings are romantic and contemplative.
Yet, even though current social distancing guidelines and stay-at-home orders have all but cancelled live poetry readings, there are many alternatives. For example, you can find recordings of past poetry readings on sites like YouTube.
Simply try searching for the names of your favourite poets, and see what you find. Here are some recommendations to start with:
- “Sylvia Plath reading her poems 1958”
- “Bukowski Reads Bukowski”
- “Tree Reading Series – Souvankham Thammavongsa”
Another option is to purchase/listen to spoken word albums. Many poets opt to release such albums to accompany their poetry collections, and there are plenty of titles out there from classic authors.
Check out this Qwiklit article for a list of poetry recordings offered on Spotify, which includes work from acclaimed poets such as Billy Collins, T.S. Eliot, and Elizabeth Bishop.
And simply search around on your preferred music platform — whether that’s Spotify, Apple Music, etc. — to find albums that speak to your taste.
2. Find some new (or old) poems to read.
Of course, the most common method of consuming poetry is to read it. The interaction between an author and their reader is a unique experience facilitated by the text.
So, if you want to celebrate National Poetry Month, try reading some new (or old) pieces. Crack open some print copies of your favourite collections, or try finding work online. Even just 20 minutes spent reading poetry can provide a welcome reprieve from the current stress and anxiety consuming the globe.
And, as previously mentioned on the blog, the Poetry Foundation website is an excellent resource. On there, you can find individual poems, bios of famous authors, audio recordings, and more.
Let National Poetry Month serve as a reminder that poetry is an incredibly healing force; it allows us to think, feel, and reflect on life in a profound way.
3. Support your favourite poets, small presses, and publishers.
Another great way to engage with the poetry community is to financially support writers and their publishers. Ask yourself: Who are some of my favourite living poets? Which local, small presses are regularly putting out important work? What about larger publishers?
If you have the funds, purchase poetry books (either in print or ebook form) from writers, presses, and publishers you enjoy. In the midst of this global pandemic, artists of all kinds are struggling with a lack of funds from gigs and sales. Providing financial support is invaluable in allowing them to continue their work.
Other options are to donate directly via their websites/Venmo accounts or to become members of their Patreon fundraising efforts. If you’re short on cash but have the time to spare, you could share their work via social media, write a blog post reviewing their book(s), or leave them positive reviews on sites like Goodreads and Amazon.
(Note: Small presses and independent authors are often the most cash-strapped members of the poetry community; supporting them in particular can be wildly helpful.)
4. Try your hand at writing a poem or two.
Lastly, another way to engage with poetry is to get writing yourself!
It’s a myth that poetry writing is a pretentious, elitist practice; at its best, poetry appeals to the everyday reader. There are many different styles, of course, but you shouldn’t feel scared to start writing poetry just because you haven’t studied it in university or aren’t well-versed in traditional works.
Anyone can be a poet: a child just learning how to read/write, a teenager looking for a creative outlet, or an adult simply looking for a new hobby. Poetry is for everyone — unlike prosaic forms such as fiction, poetry is extremely lax in terms of rules.
Because, well, there are no rules. You can spell words wrong (intentionally or unintentionally), use odd punctuation marks/combinations, and choose to write one or one thousand words in a single piece. There are no limits, and no strict guidelines. As a poet, you have complete creative freedom.
So, grab your favourite notebook or laptop and start drafting up new work. If you need motivation, try using writing prompts, like the 22 listed in this article for Read Poetry.
Once you’ve written a few poems, try editing them yourself (or with the help of a friend/teacher), and consider publishing them. You can post them on your social media accounts, a free blog, or even submit them to various publications/contests.
Poetry is a beautiful thing. Especially in the midst of this current global crisis, we need it more than ever. Try one of these tips today, and see how much they change your life.
As always, thanks for reading the Writing Advice column. Make sure you follow the blog here on WordPress to have weekly articles delivered straight to your inbox.
And if you’re interested in reading my poetry, you can find two full collections at my publisher’s site.
Grey Borders is offering their entire digital archive for free at the moment, with the option to donate if you feel so inclined. (They publish a lot of excellent Canadian poetry, so definitely check out the rest of the site if you’re looking for new poetry.)
Happy writing (and reading)!