7 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month
By Christina Katz
In our frenetic world, poetry frequently falls through the cracks. April is National Poetry Month and the perfect time to help your family live a more poetic life. Here are a few tips for doing just that.
1. Read a poem a day. The lyrical poet Rainer Maria Rilke said, “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches.” So why not put on your own poetic air mask first and sign up for a daily poem in your inbox via The Writer’s Almanac (writersalmanac.org)? When parents are tuned in to the finer things in life, it is easier for children to follow suit. Notice how easy it is to feel uplifted when a poem is sent into your life each day.
2. Encourage observation. Notice nature and tell your children what you see. Remark on the changing seasons. Bundle up on chilly nights and stand under the starlit sky. Lay on your backs in warm weather and search for constellations. Poets rely on their powers of observation and your family can, too. Poet Mary Oliver has these instructions for living a poetic life: “Pay attention./ Be astonished./ Tell about it.”
3. Pop a “poetry pill.” Pablo Neruda said, “Poetry is an act of peace.” So when you are looking to soothe your family during difficult times, why not turn to poetry? We intuitively calm restless children when we read them rhythmic and rhyming bedtime stories. Poetry provides a similar tonic. Maintain a collection of poetry books like you keep a medicine cabinet full of over-the-counter remedies, and reach for poetic relief as an antidote to the headaches of life.
4. Collect beauty. A tiny clutch of dandelions. A doll made of sticks. Nurturing a rose bush as it flowers year after year. Clipping herbs. Having tea in the afternoon. Setting a pretty table. Eating slowly and reverently. There are so many ways to bring graciousness into our daily lives. Look for what beckons your soul and romance your relationship with those practices. As decorator and author Alexandra Stoddard says in her book Daring to Be Yourself (Doubleday, 1990), “Be true to your own real pleasures. Experiment so that you’ll find what’s right for you.”
5. Scavenge for favorites. When I was a girl, I knew exactly where to find my favorite book of poetry, When We Were Very Young, by A. A. Milne, who also wrote the Winnie-the-Pooh books. I would make a beeline for that book almost every time I visited the library. Help your kids find their favorite poems; encourage them to use one poem as a jumping off place for finding more favorites. A collection containing their favorite poem might make a meaningful birthday or graduation gift. Poetry has power, and our personal favorites can open doors of insight into our relationship with others and ourselves.
6. Display favorite lines. Viewing a few favorite lines of poetry can put a smile on your face no matter what else is going on in your life. “Though she be but little, she is fierce,” a popular line from Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream, is a good example. Many girls of small stature relate to this line and draw courage from it. The phrase is so popular that you will find numerous products on Etsy.com sporting it. Visit the online store for inspiration for displaying your favorite lines of verse. You will find inexpensive products and downloads you can purchase for family members or for yourself.
7. Compose playfully. Whatever you do, don’t take poetry too seriously. Magnetic poetry now comes in so many variations, you are sure to find a kit to suit each family member. Why not encourage daily poetry making on your refrigerator? Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “It is a happy talent to know how to play,” and this philosophy applies to living poetically, as well. Read poems, savor poems, make up poems, share poems—integrate verse playfully into your life and watch for an uptick in everyday appreciation. Nothing about the world may change overnight, but you can change the way your family approaches the world by embracing poetic living every single day.
Author, journalist, and writing coach Christina Katz challenges herself to live a little more poetically every day. She finds that the practice helps inoculate her family against the stresses and strains of the world, especially during turbulent times.