At this point in the year, people often revisit the resolutions made a month ago and either celebrate success or sigh in defeat. Like many others, I have resolutions that didn’t make it, but there is one that I made a couple of years ago that is still a part of my life.
I resolved to read more poetry.
Poetry is an insidious part of our life if we listen to much music, and I remember reading poetry regularly when I was in high school and college. But it came to me a couple of years ago that I didn’t have enough poetry in my life anymore, so I made a resolution to change that.
A poet, I think, sees the world in a way another writer never does. A poem is like a photograph of a small space or time composed with an economy of words.
I don’t know if that tells you what poetry is or what I hope it is.
Poets can cut to the bone the verbiage they use, whereas even the most Hemingway-esque of prose writers must pepper their paragraphs with the blunt objects of prepositions and articles. Poets even set themselves apart from playwrights. Sure, playwrights have been freed of the chains of description and have to choose words carefully so that actors can translate them into live dialogue or action. But the playwright requires a translator to fully inflate their balloon; their work is meant to be performed, not read, to reach its full potential.
Poets interface more intimately with a reader.
Other than consciously looking for poetry when I visited the library or downloaded an e-book, two things helped me connect with poetry on a regular basis: the poetry app from The Poetry Foundation, and the Poem-a-Day e-mail from the Academy of American Poets.
My friend Kelli shared the poetry app at one of our book club meetings. The app has a random feature which spins two barrels, producing a slot machine effect when two topics intersect and produce a list of poems. For instance, my latest spin produced over 1700 possible poems on love and commitment for me to peruse, from John Donne up through Gwendolyn Brooks. Some of the results are audio files with the poets reading their own work, and there is also an option to save your favorites so you can go back to them when the mood strikes. The app is available for download on both Apple and Android devices, and the Poetry Foundation website is worth exploring, too. They have a section devoted to “Poetry Tours” of significant cities that I wish I had discovered before our trip to Chicago last summer!
The second way I’ve honored my “More Poetry!” resolution is to subscribe to the American Academy of Poets “Poem-A-Day” series. The program delivers a fresh poem to your digital inbox every day. Weekdays, the poems are unpublished works of modern poets. On weekends, the classics are celebrated. This website, like that of The Poetry Foundation, has many other resources to explore.
Review your resolutions if you dare; some of them will endure and some may not. The fact that this particular resolution is still a part of my everyday life provides opportunities for delight every day.