Thursday, April 4, 2013

Thursday Review—It’s National Poetry Month, so Let’s Talk Poetry!

by Lynn H. Blackburn

Hey—I saw you reach for the mouse. Don’t you dare skip this post because you don’t like poetry. Stay with me.

I’m not a poet. I don’t play one on TV. I haven’t studied poetry since I aced my British Lit class in 1993. (I’ll do the math for you. It’s been 20 years. 20 years? Please excuse me while I hyperventilate . . . )

Okay. I’m back.

Despite my lack of expertise, I believe poetry is important, especially for writers.

I’m not saying you need to write it. I’m saying you need to read it.
(I saw that finger twitch…no scrolling away until you let me explain).
Consider for a moment the very first words we read to infants…Nursery Rhymes, Mother Goose, Dr. Suess. All poetry.

We recognize that poetry helps young brains grasp the rhythm and flow of language.

It makes sense that it would have a similar affect on grown up brains. So why is it that the aspiring writer, someone longing to master the rhythm and flow of language, would avoid poetry?

My guess is that it’s because by the time we finish school, we perceive poetry to be either childish or highbrow and we relegate it to the “things I will NEVER use again” pile.

You may not need to be able to explain iambic pentameter again, but don’t you long for every word you write to matter? For each phrase to have an impact? For there to be nothing wasted?

A good poem meets all those requirements and more.

For myself, I never gave poetry much thought until I started writing.
Now, I find the more I write, the more I appreciate the clever uses of metaphor and the tightness of the wordplay. I’ve been surprised to discover that a beautifully crafted poem can stir something in me that I can’t quite explain.

(I’m afraid the only way to explain it would involve writing a poem…It’s a slippery slope).

You know to be a great writer you need to read—a lot—in your genre and out of it. If you want to add poetry to the mix, here are a few suggestions:
  1. Read the Psalms, and remember that Psalms is a book of poetry. Ponder the imagery. Pay attention to the emotions evoked by the repetition of phrases.
  2. Go the library. What better way to try poets and see which ones resonate with you? Check out an anthology and see what happens.
  3. Ask your friends. I asked my Facebook friends who their favorite poets were. Based on their suggestions, I’m exploring a book of poems by Billy Collins and an anthology of American poetry.
  4. Check out for information on National Poetry Month. They even have an email subscription service that sends one poem a day to your inbox.
  5. Give it a chance. This isn’t high school English. You get to choose what you read. Explore until you find the good stuff. 

So, let’s hear it. How do you feel about poetry? Who are your favorite poets? What are your favorite poems? Are you willing to give poetry a chance?

Don’t forget to join the conversation!

Lynn Huggins Blackburn has been telling herself stories since she was five and finally started writing them down. She blogs about faith, family, and her writing journey on her blog Out of the Boat. Lynn is a member of the Jerry B. Jenkins Christian Writers Guild and the Word Weavers, Greenville. She lives in South Carolina where she hangs out with three lively children, one fabulous man, and a cast of imaginary characters who find their way onto the pages of her still unpublished novels. She drinks a lot of coffee.


  1. Hi Lynn & Edie,

    Poetry has a special place in my heart. Sometimes it's the best way for me to express a deeply held belief or meaningful thought. So I'm thankful for this creative form of communication. It speaks in a way that prose doesn't. Thank you for highlighting it today - I didn't realize it's National Poetry Month. :)

    In Christ's Love,
    Emily Wickham

    1. Emily, I love poetry too and have found in it the way to express the deepest thing. Although I get busy and don't take to enjoy it as much as I should. Thanks so much for stopping by! Blessings, E

    2. Hi Emily - I'm not a poet, but each night when I kiss the cheeks of my sleeping children...I wish I was! Those moments simply can't be described adequately any other way! Thanks for saying hello!

  2. I never thought of Psalms as poetry. Now that you mention it, they elicit a strong response in just a few words. I fall in the "never read it because I assume I won't like it" group. Thanks to you, I'll give it a chance. Perhaps I should take a workshop at BRMCWC.

    1. Sherry, it's easy to forget. You might be surprised at what you like! Thanks so much for dropping by, Blessings, E

    2. Hi Sherry - You are so right - a strong response in a few words! I think we forget about the poetic aspect because we are reading them translated...I'm guessing it's more obvious if you read Hebrew :-). I hope you find some poetry you love!

  3. And let's not forget picture books. Every outstanding PB is poetry whether it is written in rhyme or not. Powerful, concise, playful language coupled with illustrations.

    Thanks, Edie.

    1. Jean, ABSOLUTELY! Those, IMHO is one of the best forms of poetry. Thanks so much for reminding us. Blessings, E

  4. I knew I loved April for some reason. :) Two of my favorite poets are Robert Frost and Mary Oliver. You're is a great site for those who enjoy poetry. Also, an enjoyable magazine is Poets & Writers, carried by our local Barnes and Noble.

    For anyone interested in learning how to write poetry, Mary Oliver has a couple of very helpful how-to books. Enjoy!

    Thanks, Lynne. :)

    1. Cathy, I a huge fan of Emily Dickinson (hence the name of my cat). Mary Oliver's books are a great resource, thanks so much for sharing! Blessings, E

    2. Hi Cathy - I knew you would like this post! You are one of my favorite poets!

  5. Thanks for the post. I love poetry. Poetry was my childhood writing. So much can be said in so few words. Amazing! My favorite poet is Robert Frost. I can read Frost and the imagery allows me to relax in the country and think about "things". The Pasture is my favorite.

  6. Great suggestion, Lynn. Poetry is like music, it makes me feel when I think I'm too busy to bother with emotions.

  7. What a timely post! I have been thinking about this very topic over the last week. I would never considering myself a poet and I don't often read poetry. But I have, in highly-inspired moments, felt the urge, grabbed a pen and a scrap of paper (or my iPhone) and written a poem. It's a rare itch that can only get scratched by writing a poem.

    This happened at 1am one morning this week and it occurred to me that as a writer, I need to be more aware of these "urges". Poetry is a different beast. Reading -- or writing -- it uses a part of my brain that doesn't often get exercised. Because of this, poetry can make me a better writer overall.

  8. Beautiful, Lynn! I love good poetry, even though I don't write it, either. :-)