Is April “the cruellest month”? Maybe to some people.

It’s National Poetry Month! So go read some freakin’ poetry. If you don’t want to read poetry, then go listen to some poetry; lots of websites, like From the Fishhouse, have audio files of readings. If that’s still not good enough for you, then listen to one (or more) of the Library of Congress’s Poet and the Poem webcast series. Or for something more hands-on, Poem in your Pocket Day is April 14, this coming Thursday.

So why should I, you might be asking. Because poetry is really wonderful stuff, if you’ll give it a chance. Often enough, I hear people talk about how some well-meaning English teacher made them hate poetry when, as students, they were force-fed Shakespeare. To those people I say, give it another chance and read something more modern, something more accessible, something less arcane and full of classical allusions. Read Ruben Jackson’s “Sunday Brunch,” or Li Young Lee’s “Little Father.” That’s one of the things that National Poetry Month is for — to invite those people who don’t love poetry, or who have a reticence toward it, to give it another try.

What am I doing for National Poetry Month, you might also ask. As a fairly avid reader of poetry, I read poetry all the time, almost daily. Too many poets write, but don’t read — a charge that is easily supported by the difference between the overwhelming number of submissions that literary magazines receive versus the underwhelming number of subscriptions they have. But I don’t suffer from that problem of not reading poetry. Coincidentally, I am also teaching the British Romantics to my English 12 classes, so in recent weeks I have taught such recognizable poems as Wordsworth’s “Tintern Abbey,” Coleridge’s “Kubla Khan,” Shelley’s “Ozymandias,” Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer,” with Byron finishing us up next week. After that, we’re on to the Victorians: the Brownings, Matthew Arnold, et al.

Happy National Poetry Month!

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