Tuesday

 April is Poetry Month – Are You Ready?!


by Karen Shoemaker

When I was younger I’d told myself when I “grew up” I was going to be a writer. Turning 30 and becoming a mother in the same year seemed pretty solid evidence that I had reached grown-up status so I started getting serious about that childhood dream

I got lucky. 


However, just because I’d read an average of 75 books a year for 20 plus years didn’t mean I knew anything about writing them so I signed up for a class at our local university. I got lucky. Ron Hansen was in town for the summer and was offering a couple of beginning writing classes. I didn’t know him then, he was just some cute guy who strolled to the front of the classroom that first day and started conversing with us about writing. He was so disarmingly charming I fell in love (Please don’t tell him or my husband about this. Let’s just keep this secret between us, okay?), and I didn’t really recognize how much valuable information he was offering about the fine art of fiction writing.

I have described his teaching method as a kind of time-release capsule of knowledge. The knowledge was given out over the six-week period in asides, conversations, assignments and readings in such an organic way that it became a part of his students, not something that we carried out in our backpacks and tossed in the corner when the semester was over. I aspire to being that kind of teacher.

I’m reminded of him often, but especially during the month of April. (That’s Poetry Month for those of you following along at home.)  If I had taken only one piece of Ron’s advice I’d still be a better person than I would have been if I hadn’t taken that class. 

 Read a little poetry every day before you sit down to write fiction, he told us.

Though he taught fiction writing, he recommended that all writers start out each day by reading poetry. This habit, he told us, would enliven our senses to the true tool we have to work with as writers: language.

He was so right. I learned to love poetry in part because of his fiction writing class. I write a little bit of poetry now and then, most of it during the month of April when I write without thinking about how bad I am at it. Instead I just get caught up in the joy of language. 

 

Care to join me? 

•    Commit to the Poem-A-Day Challenge.
•    Check out Found Poetry Review’s National Poetry Month project to read poems from their “troop of poetry scouts.”
•    Visit the Poetry Foundation’s annual poetry blogging extravaganza that hosts 20+ published poets.
•    Follow poetry events taking place on Twitter: @POETSorg.
•    Participate in Poem in Your Pocket on April 30.
•    Check out the poems on http://poems.com/
•    See other news and events for National Poetry Month at Poets.org.

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