National Great Poetry Reading Day

As far as obscure holidays go, this is one of my favorites and I only learned about it this afternoon. (A few minutes ago really, at 1231hrs). My cousin started a Facebook page called “Whatadaytocelebrate” where she posts herself, her family, and her friends celebrating obscure holidays on a daily basis. Some of the past few days have been National Hug a Plumber Day, Pretzel Day, etc. Apparently, April 29th is National Great Poetry Reading Day! It takes place during National Poetry Month, which is extremely fitting.

I wanted to find out more about NGPRD so I turned to Google. There is a website called National Day Calendar, which was the first link to pop up. I haven’t found the owners or operators of the website. For today, they provide a limited amount of information of poetry and literacy. They list a few of the great poets in their opinion: William Shakespeare, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Robert Frost, Mark Twain, Emily Dickinson and T.S. Eliot. They have a section for each day called “How to Observe”:

Settle back, relax and read your favorite poetry. Use #GreatPoetryReadingDay to post on social media.

Finally, at the end of the post, they have a “History” section. I was hoping to find something substantial, unfortunately they say, “Our research was unable to find the creator and origin of National Great Poetry Reading Day.” But don’t let that stop you! Take their advice on this beautiful Saturday. Settle in, relax, and read your favorite poetry! If there are local organizations or businesses near you celebrating today, by all means, get out there and read to a captive audience! If you record it in any way or want to let everyone on social media, the world wide web, and the blogosphere know what you’re up to, use the hashtag “GreatPoetryReadingDay as well as #NPM17!

Keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan

My Favorite Poem

For a long time I wouldn’t have said I had a favorite poem. Earning an education in public school, I had few exposures to poetry and nothing as widely celebrated as National Poetry Month, which The Academy of American Poets created in 1996 when I was a sophomore in High School. I grew up not really knowing much poetry. Public school had us studying classic, mostly safe poets like Robert Frost and William Shakespeare, though we studied the latter more as literature than poetry. I remember liking Robert Frost and I still do, but in some ways I think you couldn’t get any more average. I wish we would have studied more diverse texts and poets like Charles Baudelaire, Charles Bernstein, Elizabeth Bishop, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Charles Bukowski (just to stay in the ‘B’s and list them alphabetically, of course).

In honor of National Poetry Month (#NPM2017), I want to share my favorite poem. My absolute favorite poem in the world is Stuart Dischell’s “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark” which is in the form of a pantoum. From The Poetry Foundation‘s glossary a pantoum is:

A Malaysian verse form adapted by French poets and occasionally imitated in English. It comprises a series of quatrains, with the second and fourth lines of each quatrain repeated as the first and third lines of the next. The second and fourth lines of the final stanza repeat the first and third lines of the first stanza. See A.E. Stallings’s “Another Lullaby for Insomniacs.”

It sounds complicated, but it isn’t. It also isn’t terribly easy to write, though I don’t find it as difficult a form as the dreaded sestina. Here is my favorite poem:

SHE PUT ON HER LIPSTICK IN THE DARK

I really did meet a blind girl in Paris once. It
was in the garden of a museum Where I saw
her touching the statues. She had brown hair
and an aquamarine scarf.

It was in the garden of the museum I told her I
was a thief disguised as a guard. She had
brown hair and an aquamarine scarf. She told
me she was a student from Grenoble.

I told her I was not a thief disguised as a guard.
We had coffee at the little commissary. She said
she had time till her train to Grenoble. We talked
about our supreme belief in art.

We had coffee at the little commissary
Then sat on a bench near the foundry. We
talked about our supreme belief in art. She
leaned her head upon my chest.

We kissed on a bench near the foundry. I
closed my eyes when no one was watching.
She leaned her head upon my chest. The
museum was closing. It was time to part.

I really did meet a blind girl in Paris once. I
never saw her again and she never saw me.
In a garden she touched the statues. She put
on her lipstick in the dark.

I close my eyes when no one is watching. She
had brown hair and an aquamarine scarf. The
museum was closing. It was time to part. I
never saw her again and she never saw me.

The Lead Faculty for the National University Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing and my personal mentor, Professor Frank Montesonti, encourages MFA students to communicate with published poets. Why not? They’re human like the rest of us. They came from the same unpublished, unrecognized streets we did. And it’s so cool when they write back! I have written to five major poets and all, but one sent me a personal response. On Monday, July 11, 2016 I e-mailed Mr. Dischell expressing my love for his poem and humbly sharing with him a poem I wrote in response. “It’s Always Dark when I Put on My Lipstick” is not a pantoum and is written from the perspective of the woman. Mr. Dischell wrote me the very next day and graciously complimented my poem! It was funny because the day I wrote to him, he was a guest speaker at the American University in Paris and had been asked to read “She Put Her Lipstick on in the Dark.”

Other notable examples of the pantoum are Carolyn Kizer’s “Parent’s Pantoum,” John Ashberry’s “Pantoum,” Airea D. Matthews’ “Descent of the Composer,” Randall Mann’s “September Elegies,” Denise Duhamel’s “Lawless Pantoum,” Carolyn Kizer’s “Parent’s Pantoum,” and Marilyn Hacker’s “Iva’s Pantoum.” There are so many great examples out there, but Dischell’s is my all-time favorite.

Keep writing! (Maybe try a pantoum of your own?)

Cheers,

Bryan

“Pantoum.” Poetry Foundation, n.d. Web. 12 April 2017.

Dischell, Stuart. “She Put on Her Lipstick in the Dark.” National Endowment for the Arts, 2009. Web. 12 April 2017.

National Poetry Month

I posted several weeks ago about #NaPoWriMo, the slick hashtag for National Poetry Writing Month, a similarly named cousin to NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month in November). National Poetry Month is upon us and in full swing! Countless poets are celebrating the month with challenges, contests, and prompts. Poet bloggers are blogging and sharing the good news.

2017npm-poster_0The Academy of American Poets has an amazing page this year called 30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month. True to its name, there are 30 activities listed, one for each of the 30 days in National Poetry Month. Additionally, they published lessons for teachers for all primary, middle, and High School grades. You can order this year’s National Poetry Month poster for free from the Academy’s website. You can also find an Adobe pdf version with clickable images linked to related poems. It’s not easy to explain, but trust me, check out the pdf and spend an afternoon clicking through the poems for each picture, it’s a blast!

One of the coolest ideas this year is #10: “Ask your governor or mayor for a proclamation in support of National Poetry Month.” I live in a suburb of Jacksonville so I e-mailed and sent letters to both the mayor of my town as well as Mayor Lenny Curry of Jacksonville. So far, Mayor Curry e-mailed me back with a link to a page on his website for submitting proclamation requests. The process was simple and I expect to hear Mayor Curry’s final determination. I haven’t contacted Governor Rick Scott of Florida, yet, but that is my next step.

When I wrote to Mayor Nix and Mayor Curry, I also asked them about appointing a Poet Laureate for their respective town and city. Mayor Curry directed my question to the director of the Jacksonville Public Library. I am excited to hear from Mrs. Barbara Gubbin and I am hopeful that Mayor Nix will reply in an equally enthusiastic manner. Florida has an appointed Peter Meinke (personal website linked) as the most recent Poet Laureate, a position I hope to attain some day!

This year I am following two prompt generators for National Poetry Month. Robert Lee Brewer, the former Poet Laureate of the Blogosphere, publishes Poetic Asides, a regular blog on the Writer’s Digest website. Brewer publishes a poetry prompt every day for the 30 days of April and as an added bonus, he includes a “Two-for-Tuesday”! The great thing about this challenge is you can publish your response poems directly to the thread under the post.

The second set of prompts I follow is WordXWord’s Thirty Thirty Poetry Challenge. You cannot publish your poems directly to this website. To submit your responses to the challenges, Thirty Thirty set up a Facebook page at 30/30 Poetry. Although it is a closed group, it is not difficult to request membership.

I hope I have inspired you to write today!

Cheers,

Bryan

NaPoWriMo

national-poetry-month-logo

As well as being National Poetry Month, April is also celebrated by some brave individuals as NaPoWriMo. NaPoWriMo? National Poetry Writing Month! Similar to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), just don’t get them confused! If you want to know more about NaPoWriMo specifically, check out their FAQ.

The Academy of American Poets inaugurated National Poetry Month in 1996 and have sponsored it ever since. Throughout the month of April, you can find all kinds of material and resources to celebrate National Poetry Month. The Academy has a page dedicated to the annual celebration along with links to other pages, projects, and events. Scholastic’s website has great resources for teachers, students, and any other poetry lover. Read Write Think also offers several lesson plans for grades K-12 on their website. Last year, Poetry Foundation made their April issue of Poetry magazine available as a pdf download.

I haven’t found much material for 2017 yet, but then it is still March. Through a quick search, I found several references to National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo from 2016. Everything posted for 2016 is still valid, but I hope they begin posting information for 2017 soon. I have that poetic itch and it can only be cured with more cowbell. No, that’s not right. I am excited to see what comes of National Poetry Month and NaPoWriMo this year!

I am debating whether I am going to attempt to write one poem every day in April this year. I haven’t done it in the past because I just learned about it. I am still heavily engaged in finishing my Master’s Thesis for my MFA. I thought I would have enough poems for the thesis, but I am writing more to achieve the requirements. Actually, NaPoWriMo may provide the inspiration I need to foster my brilliance. ;-l

I should point out you can also find opinions against National Poetry Month because, of course, there are radicals on both sides of every fence.

With only 27 days remaining until National Poetry Month, keep writing!

Cheers,

Bryan