It’s National Poetry Month in the United States – Get Your Poetic Groove On!

It’s National Poetry Month in the United States, and I think it’s a wonderful opportunity to talk about poetry and celebrate one of my favourite literary forms. There was a time when I looked down my nose at such greeting-card company-esque “theme” months in the United States (do any other countries do this? We don’t in France.), but now as an educator I can see the importancece of such campagnes. They allow for poetry (or Women’s History, or African-American History) to find a place (albeit small) in the classroom, and educators can carve out a place to enhance an often white-bread and fast-food-flavoured curriculum.

Who is your favourite poet? Do you have one? I’ll be honest, I don’t have just one that I love more than others. Through my own interest (I swear I was born with a book in my hand), and accompanied by education (one of my undergrad degrees and my Masters are both in literature), I’ve found solace and companionship in poetry much of my life.

I think like most rebel-teens I fell in love with the Beat Poets, and admit that Gregory Corso will always have a special place in my heart. I even took to memorizing The Lizard King’s poetry when I was 15, because I so understood what he was talking about.

Richard Brautigan is one of my favourite poets and novelists, and In Watermelon Sugar and The Pill Versus The Springhill Mine Disaster changed my life (as literature often does when you’re but 20 or 21 years old), and I’m still looking for a copy of Please Plant This Book (so if you EVER come across a copy at a yard sale, do pick it up!).

I also need to mention Charles Simic, because I absolutely love his sense of humor. The World Doesn’t End is just amazing, as is A Wedding in Hell. Read them!

Because I love you, I’ll share with you one of my favourite poems, written by the French poet Tristan Tzara, a Romanian-born avant-guarde French poet.

t267406aTzara with Man Ray – photo credit google images

I might be breaking a copyright law, but here it is:


quel est ce chemin qui nous sépare

à travers lequel je tends la main de ma pensée

une fleur est écrite au bout de chaque doigt

et le bout du chemin est une fleur qui marche avec toi

Here is my translation (do be aware there may be an official translation out there somewhere…)


what is this path that separates us

across which I hold out the hand of my thoughts

a flower is written at the end of each finger

and the end of the path is a flower who walks with you

This is also the perfect moment for me to gain momentum on my 300 Poem Project. I used to be an avid writerfish, but life just gets in the way and new creative outlets push others to the background. My hope is to have a volume of 300 poems (my initial hope was a poem a day, but that isn’t going to happen people) to document my year.

I would love to read about your favourite poems and poets, especially female poets (the lacunae of my poetic knowledge). Share! Tell me who you love (or hate!).

I’m also looking for some short story recommendations. I love studying short stories with my students, and I would love to hear some of your favourite short story titles! Tomorrow we’ll be reading Dahl’s Lamb To The Slaughter, a classic!

13 thoughts on “It’s National Poetry Month in the United States – Get Your Poetic Groove On!

  1. Funny that Americans seem to have an (Inter)National day/week/month for everything. But poetry definitely deserves it. I’m more a novel person, but I heart Tzara and Jim Morrison, too. And Bertolt Brecht.

  2. I have too many favorites! Brautigan was a favorite of mine a few years ago though. I read “An Unfortunate Woman” right after a close friend of mine died and it was a really amazing experience.

    As for poets, I’m fairly traditional, but you can’t go wrong with Seamus Heaney, Elizabeth Bishop, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Alan Dugan, Dylan Thomas, G.M. Hopkins, etc. For more contemporary, Natasha Trethewey and Claudia Emerson are my heroes. Oh, and Betty Adcock kicks some serious poetry arse in the southern female genre!

    I could go on and one. But then again, I am a poet and a critic who writes about poetry! Hurray for poetry!

  3. I was always intimidated by poetry, but loved poetry by my mentor, John Ditsky (who never acquired any fame, so you probably won’t find his stuff online). I was moved by Plath and Wallace Stevens and some of Margaret Atwood’s poetry. Re: short stories, my all time favorite is Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter (actually, it’s more of a novella), or her short story “Flowering Judas.”

  4. My all time favorite poem (not necessarily favorite poet) is by Robert Frost “Nothing Gold Can Stay”. I have loved it for over fifteen years and loving it so much, I have plans to tattoo the title. Yep, I love it that much!

    I also love Pablo Neruda – for the lover in me.

    Hmm.. I think I need to go write a poem myself!

  5. Shelly the writerfish! You’re such a multifaceted fish! Thanks for your translation, it’s a beautiful poem!

    I’ve been postponing my poetry reading for years! Whenever I do start reading poetry, Dorothy Parker will probably be my first.

  6. I have always been a fan of Deep Imagists such as James Wright. “A Blessing” is my favorite poem. (It can be found on the Web.) Pablo Neruda and Federico Garcia Lorca are another two Imagists whom I love.

    I also have an affinity for the Polish poets Czesław Miłosz and Wislawa Szymborska. They are very similar to Charles Simic’s tone–sort of philosophical and bittersweet.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t written poetry since grad school, but I should really pick it up again. Do you think you’ll share one of your poems?

  7. I always felt I didn’t understand poetry… books I could analyze, but poetry seemed very out of reach. And like most students of general literature, women poets were not well-taught. So with that being said, I was always a fan of e. e. cummings’s “inJust-” and T. S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” (apparently I also care for poets with initials.) and anything by Audre Lorde.

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