National Poetry Month: Why Poetry Matters
By Jenuine Poetess
April is many things to many people. For some, April is about Autism Awareness & Advocacy. For others April shines a light on the presence of Child Abuse and how to prevent violence against youth in their homes. Some people celebrate their pets in April, other people honor the Earth, still others may go fly a kite. Here at the Arts & Culture blog, we’re celebrating Poetry! Among the myriad of causes, April is National Poetry Month. Established in 1996 by the American Academy of Poets, National Poetry Month strives to not only draw attention to poets and their works but also to inspire others to try their hand at writing verse. Poet Maureen Thorson is credited with initiating the NaPoWriMo challenge in 2003 in which participants endeavor to write 30 poems in 30 days throughout the month of April. If you are feeling ambitious, it’s not too late in the month to begin; check out the NaPoWriMo website for daily prompts and tips!
As a poet, sometimes I forget that for many people, poetry serves little to no purpose in their daily lives. Actually, this is quite a shocking realization for me to remember. I’ve been writing poems, in some form, since I was a little girl. I was a non-committal open mic attendee for many years after college and wrote every now and then when I was so moved. It wasn’t until I began attending weekly open mics and womyn’s writing circle at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural in Sylmar, CA in 2009 that I finally claimed my identity as Poet and began seriously practicing the written and spoken-word arts. I quickly found poetry to be my new way of life. I relished the rebellion of breaking grammar rules to arrange words on the page, without a care for punctuation or use of articles. Words themselves became the adornments of my expressions. Pure. Undiluted. Raw. Within this realm of reckless, wild, word-play, I found my own voice. I have known no other liberation so exhilarating as beholding the reflection of myself in the words I have poured upon my pages. I am certainly not the first, no the last to embark on this journey of self-knowing via pen and paper. Science fiction author, Octavia Estelle Butler affirms, “Every story I write, creates me. I write to create myself.”
Poet W. B. Yeats asserts, “out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.” It is from within that quarrel with one’s self, that the truest aspects of our soul remain refined, after everything else has burned away. For most poets I know and by whom I am inspired, we write to shed light on truth with very little interest in keeping ourselves or others comfortable. The visceral art of poetry is to be unsilent, to provoke, to protest, to be—unflinching and unapologetic. It is up to the reader to divine meaning, to interpret call to action, to take away value.
Without hesitation or embellishment I candidly admit that poetry has saved my life on countless occasions. Whether it is the catharsis of purging my turmoil, heartache, outrage, or euphoria onto the page; or the validation of listening or reading others’ words putting into language thoughts, feelings, moments I too have experienced; or the deep joy of witnessing another come into bloom, finding their own voice and raising the volume to speak, with authority, their truths; writing has saved and changed my life. Mine is not the only testament to this fact. From youth and adults in correctional facilities, to those doing the work in therapy sessions, to cancer patients working through their mortality, to the grieving remembering their loved ones lost, to hearts pounding in love and desire, to joyful wonder captured spontaneous, people world-wide speak fluently the language of poetry.
Historically, poetry has been a dangerous occupation getting writers excommunicated at best and executed at worst. We have been outcast and exiled, tortured and isolated, we have been misunderstood and hated since the dawn of poetry. I promise you, it is not for the faint-of-heart. Poetry is born out of marrow and mire. It is a Phoenix rising again and again out of the ashes of our souls, the glowing remnants of what has been destroyed. Poetry is our rebirth. We write to know ourselves and we share to know each other. This is how we build community, through our creative expressions. Through speaking our truths. Through listening, with intention, to what each other is saying—deep within our words.
I do not write because it is nice or fun. Poetry is not a hobby or leisure activity. Poetry is among my personal hierarchy of needs. I must write. When my words are quiet, I feel it; I know it is a grave vital sign of my distress. Poetry is my compass and my map. Poetry is my truest mirror showing me unedited reflections of myself. Poetry is my measure and my portion. Poetry is both a part of me, and something entirely beyond me, all at once.
- Waco Poets Society hosts an open mic every 2nd & 4th Saturday at the Art Forum of Waco, 7pm and welcomes the sharing of poems, songs, stories, spoken-word, reflections, jokes, and more!
- Challenge yourself to write 30 poems in 30 days—yes! haiku count! J
- Attend readings at the Austin International Poetry Festival featuring Nikki Giovanni April 9th-12th
- Attend Waco’s Annual WordFest, a part of the Waco Cultural Arts Festival in September 2015
- Stop by the Waco Poets Society booth any 2nd Saturday at the Waco Downtown Farmers’ Market to try your hand on our vintage typewriter or to play with magnetic words
These are some of my go-to resources for practicing, contemplating, and exploring the written & spoken-word arts.
- NaPoWriMo – prompts and tips for writing 30 poems in 30 days of April
- Poem Crazy: freeing your life with words – by Susan G. Wooldridge
- Poetry as Spiritual Practice: using Poetry in Your Daily Rituals, Aspirations, and Intentions – by Robert McDowell
- Writing the Life Poetic: An Invitation to Read and Write Poetry – by Sage Cohen
- Skipping Stones is a rich multicultural literary and arts magazine for children and youth
Jenuine Poetess is an artist, visionary, and community organizer. In 2010, she founded In the Words of Womyn (ITWOW), an international, grass-roots, written and spoken-word arts project with chapters throughout Los Angeles; Waco, TX; and Lebanon. ITWOW empowers womyn of all ages to give sound to our story and volume to our voice.HOT~ITWOW writing circle meets Mondays from 6-7:45pm at the Art Forum of Waco beginning February 2, 2015. Jenuine also founded Waco Poets Society which sponsors a local open mic venue in Sanger Heights. Meeting every 2nd & 4th Saturday at the Art Forum of Waco Nuestra Voz Open Mic invites community to share poems, songs, stories, spoken-word, and other creative expressions! In 2015, Jenuine along with a number of other artists creating and residing in Waco, co-founded the Central Texas Artist Collective (click link to learn more and get involved). You can contact her at: firstname.lastname@example.org.