April is designated National Poetry Month…amongst other things. I’m not sure when the official poetry designation for April officially came into play. I have a poet acquaintance that I met in graduate school – for awhile he worked as an events manager at some of the larger bookstores in and around my city before leaving for New York. The guy who took over his last job locally wrote in his first bookstore newsletter quoting him: “Every month around here is national poetry month.” Or something along those lines.
Poetry as I often note can be a subjective thing. I think the most accessible form are song or rap lyrics except I’ve had people argue that they are not in the same level or league, etc. But I beg to differ. Put words together that tickle in a certain way and you’ve poetry – one way or another.
About twenty years ago, when I joined a large state agency — I began to send out poems over email. This is all started and came to as an idea with seeds of necessity because there was no way I could really send a traditional holiday greeting card to all my colleagues. So I sent a poem: Skating By William Wordsworth (1770–1850).
Yes, I went the traditional route the first time up and it was so well received that spring I sent out his poem “Daffodils.” This started a tradition of sending out poems several times a year, a fall poem around Thanksgiving, a winter poem in December and a spring poem. Winter poems remain the most difficult challenge because the imagery tends to be dark and depressing, and I try to steer away from anything religious. I send them at work but also out to friends and family.
Over the decades, this has become a tradition and I’ve sent out poems by: ee cummings, William Carlos Williams, Robert Louis Stevenson, Robert Frost, Amy Lowell, Dana Gioia, Christine Rosetti, Nikki Giovanni, Mary Oliver as well as authors known more for their prose such as Willa Cather, and L.M. Montgomery. This spring I sent out a poem by Rumi – most people liked it but I had one loud descent. Poetry can really strike a nerve.
People have told me that they look forward to the poetry emails. One year, colleague and I were chatting about holiday scheduling and I told her I was frantic trying to get all my deadlines taken care of before I had to take my “use or lose” vacation. And she actually called me back asking: “But we are still getting our poem right?”
And I used to send these short little birthday/best wishes emails to people but this same colleague requested a birthday poem so now there is a birthday poem I send out to friends and family. Since it started with her the new poem goes into the yearly rotation on her birthday in August.
Reception has been generally receptive. Sometimes I will send poems for special occasions both happy and sad—people seem to find comfort in The Rainbow Bridge when losing a pet.
Generally I find this is a nice way to slip poetry constantly back into our lives.
If you have any other ideas…let me know!