In my former life, before I came to William & Mary to study counseling, I studied poetry. Every year, I look forward to April because it is National Poetry Month. April is great for a lot of reasons—the improved weather, the lengthening days, but mostly I love it because it is the month in which I give myself permission to put poetry at the top of my list of priorities. Historically, I’ve assigned myself ambitious challenges that don’t seem TOO ambitious when I’m thinking of them, but then when I try to do them I find they’re unsustainable—things like, read poetry for at least 30 minutes per day, or complete a draft of a poem each day (some days you are busy, and some days you are tired, and some days you just don’t have any ideas that warrant the completion of a poem).
This year, because I have so much going on with school, I’ve set my sights a little lower—I’m posting a poem a day on Instagram, which basically just means I flip through some books at the end of every day until I find a poem I like and then snap a picture of it. This isn’t the only reading I do, and when I have time I put more effort into picking what I choose, but the commitment is small enough that I don’t have to make a big deal out of it every day, so I have an easier time sticking to it. It’s a nice way to incorporate poetry into my life on a daily basis—it feels celebratory in a pleasant way.
The concept of mindfulness, or attention to the present moment, is a pretty hot one in counseling lately. It’s a way of getting beyond your thoughts and feelings and engaging more thoroughly in what it is to be a person in the world. One of the things I enjoy about poetry is how it taps into a mindful headspace through an alternate route. And the kind of awareness mindfulness encourages is helpful when you’re trying to engage with the world in a way that will help you write poems.
If you’re interested in celebrating National Poetry Month, April 27 is Poem In Your Pocket Day—a day in which people choose a poem to print off and carry with them throughout the day, sharing it with others in person and online using the hashtag #pocketpoem. It’s a fun way to engage with the poetry community! And if you want to receive a poem in your email inbox, you can sign up for the Poem-A-Day newsletter from The Academy of American Poets at poets.org—I’ve been a subscriber for years, and it’s a really fun way to discover new poets. The Academy of American Poets has come up with a list of even more ways to celebrate, found here: https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/30-ways-celebrate-national-poetry-month
People tend to think that poetry is difficult, the kind of thing that doesn’t offer much reward to a casual reader. A lot of the poetry that’s taught in high school English classes is often antiquated and complicated, and not very much fun. But there are a lot of poems that are simpler, direct and easier to understand. Poems written in everyday language. Poems that feel genuinely relatable, that can hit you on an emotional level or allow you to feel like you’re really getting to know the personalities in the poem. Poems can help you cultivate your sense of self in the world, and find new ways to engage, and that’s part of why I love National Poetry Month.