Thursday, May 3, 2012

Thoughts on National Poetry Month

Is this marathon of events really over? This April was a whirlwind of trips and challenges. I've lost count of how many different presentations and readings I've done but I know the number of poems I wrote: 0.

I'm typical of many poets I know in that I am happiest at home surrounded by books and paper. I love people but mostly one on one or in small groups. Presenting my work to large groups doesn't come easily to me, but I've learned to enjoy the adrenalin rush of performing on a large stage or teaching in an art museum. The liberation that comes from moving beyond my own limits seems worth all the nervousness I suffer before the event. Now that the month is over, I only remember the fun times.

Here is an incomplete list of where I spend my National Poetry Month.

At Richard Hugo House in Seattle (where I live) as a reader for A Face to Meet the Faces, a new anthology out on persona poetry. Hearing all those voices come together -- the mask of the pop star mixing with the mask of the Biblical matriarch was great fun. Thank you Stacy lyn Brown and Oliver de la Paz for creating such a lovely book.

In Portland, Oregon where I read with Kelli Russell Agodon at the bookstore made famous in the hit show Portlandia and stayed at the wonderful Hotel Deluxe. Road trip!

At the incredible Massachusetts Poetry Festival where I somehow did five events in one day including a superb and moving Favorite Poem Project reading. I will never forget hearing politicians, restaurateurs, and poets share poems that had impacted their lives in major ways. I also adored the Improbable Places Poetry tour with poems on shower curtains, menus, knitting shops and storefront windows all through the town of Salem. Thank you January O'Neil, Colleen Michaels,  and crew for making this such a far reaching and important event.

And while in Salem, Massachusetts I was thrilled to also work with the docents at the Peabody Essex Museum. Before the festival started we spent a fantastic afternoon writing poems from visual art. Where better to teach about ekphrastic poetry than in an art museum? This was my third time working with art museums and I hope to continue this work. Simply put: I love it. I'm in love with the Peabody Essex Museum and I need to go back and wander through the galleries. It's a world class museum so if you are in the area, you must go.

I know I am forgetting entire conferences (Fields End!, readings, and another trip I took; it's late.

A friend asked me if I would feel better if I wasn't crazy busy during poetry month and I knew the answer immediately. I want to be a poet in the world; I just want to find a way to enter with an easier "face to meet the faces" to quote Elliot -- and a certain cool anthology.


  1. Wow, what a great month you had. The Massachusetts Poetry Festival sounds wonderful!

    I've come to dread National Poetry Month, because it feels kind of forced. Oh, right, says the world, let's pretend we care about poetry for a little while and then go right back to ignoring it again afterwards. (I feel the same way about Black History Month.)

    Guess I shouldn't be so cynical. Better that it gets some acknowledgement than none at all, I suppose. But I want EVERY month to be Poetry Month.

  2. How was Field's End?

    A busy month for you, but you're a poet in the world and living the life! Happy to join you in Portlandia! ;-)

  3. I agree with Angie: there's something manic about NPM that seems far removed from the spirit and deeper meaning of poetry in our lives. That said, I'm grateful there's time set aside to acknowledge our art and its significance to so many. Take a load off, Susan; you've earned it!