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Invitation to the muse

April is National Poetry Month

Is poetry a part of your life?  Do you find yourself humming tunes, reciting lines from memory?  Is there a poem you learned at some point that comes to mind readily today?    

As a child, I memorized one poem that I can recite now – four short, unremarkable lines from an unknown poet. Committing poetry to memory is very hard for me, despite my growing love of reading and appreciating poetry and even writing a few lines occasionally.  

My love for poetry began during a 1995 week at Mexico’s Rancho La Puerto, when renowned poet Galway Kinnell happened to have chosen the same week that I had chosen and offered guests the opportunity to gather for a couple of hours each afternoon.  I listened to him read his own and others’ poems and suddenly discovered the world of poetry fully present.  For the first time, I wrote a few surprising lines that seemed to come unbidden. The discussion and feedback were riveting.  

Following that week, my admiration and awe of the power of poetry never diminished.  It precipitated my career change, graduate school and introduction to Poetry Therapy and its powerful healing potential.  

If you’ve been reluctant in the past, now is the perfect time to invite poetry into your life. April is National Poetry Month, “the largest literary celebration in the world with tens of millions of readers, students, teachers, librarians, booksellers, events planners, publishers, bloggers and, of course, poets” according to, The Academy of American Poets.

The American Academy of Poetry established goals for this project during their first celebration in April 1996 to: 

  • Highlight the legacy and achievement of American poets
  • Support poets and poetry
  • Encourage reading poems
  • Assist teachers to bring poetry into classrooms
  • Increase media attention
  • Encourage dissemination of poetry books

Poem in Your Pocket, one of the most visible programs of National Poetry Month, originated in 2002 in New York City and joined the Academy of American Poets in 2008.  Suggestions to get involved include: 

  • Choose a favorite poem to share with others. 
  • Carry the same poem every day or choose new poems.
  • Make copies to carry and share with everyone you meet.  
  • Read or recite the poem and give them a copy to help spread the message.  
  • Share your poem on social media using #pocketpoem.
  • Text a poem to a friend. 
  • Add your favorite lines from a poem to your email footer.  

UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) founded World Poetry Day in 1999 hoping to inspire celebration of poetry all over the world.  They suggest that you:

  • Write a poem, starting with Haiku then move on to free verse.
  • Host a poetry slam.
  • Visit the American Poetry Museum in Washington, DC http://americanpoetrymuseum.org

 To receive regular poetry emails, simply go online and sign up.

  • The Slowdown is written and presented by current US Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith is a 5-day-a-week podcast produced by the Library of Congress and American Public Media.  Also available on Instagram and other outlets.   https://www.apmpodcasts.org/slowdown/     
  • 180 poems online– a list of one poem for every school day chosen by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins and sponsored by The Library of Congress, available for students as well as others interested at  www.loc.gov/poetry/180/

In 1999, my father knew about my growing interest in poetry and mailed me an article from Forbes Magazine that included quotes from Robert Hass, US Poet Laureate, 1995-1997.  “Poetry, says Robert Hass, is good – and good for you.” 

The Forbes reporter asked Hass “Why should someone who has never written a poem try to write one?” he replied:

“We are symbol-making beings. Everyone tastes that in some part of their being and wants to say on their own terms what it is to be alive.  Poetry is the most common way, because the material of poetry is the stream of language that is constantly going on in our heads.  It’s very low tech.  Any can do it.”   

Read, write and share poetry this month and continue to let it enlighten, encourage and entertain you. It’s the perfect prescription for slowing down and paying attention. 

Susan Hendricks leads guided journal writing groups in Columbia as a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Journal Therapist and Certified Dream Group Leader.  Continuing Education Credits approved by the SC Social Work Board may be earned by mental health therapists.  To contact Susan, visit www.susanhendricks.com or www.wholistictherapyandcoaching.com

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