To celebrate National Poetry Month, we asked a few poet-moms about their craft, their process and their ideas for making poetry a little more accessible to us all. Each Tuesday in April we pose a question to the poets and share each of their responses, followed by a poetry-related writing prompt.
Great writing begins with great reading, so who are some poets you would recommend for people who might be looking for a way “in” to poetry?
Samantha Reynolds: Billy Collins is my favorite poet. He is accessible, witty, tender and mischievous. He is a master of transforming ordinary objects and moments into wondrous gifts.
Julie Brooks Barbour: Mary Oliver and Robert Frost are both accessible to a wide range of readers. I return to their work because they write so beautifully about nature, and I appreciate their use of narrative and language.
Lyla Willingham Lindquist: Ted Kooser and Billy Collins immediately come to mind as poets who believe (and practice) that good poetry doesn’t have to be (or perhaps even shouldn’t be) inaccessible to a reader. I’m reminded of Collins’ poem, “Introduction to Poetry,” which includes these lines:
But all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means
Tony Hoagland also has a wonderful way of capturing the poetic imagination with profound but accessible poems, and for love poetry, Neruda is always a great choice.
For Your Journal: Play With Poetry Prompt
Poetry is a genre of thrift and precision, and it doesn’t get much thriftier or more precise than attempting to capture a thought or experience in 17 syllables. Haiku does this in three lines, where the first and last lines have five syllables and the second line has seven. American Sentences, a poetic form created by Allen Ginsberg, also contain 17 syllables, but without the line breaks.
Paul Nelson has written one American Sentence every day since 2001 and has a website devoted to this form. Click here for inspiration, and then try writing your own American Sentence to capture the highlight (or lowlight) of your last 24 hours. You might start by writing a new journal entry or reviewing a recent entry, and then choose what to focus on and distill it down to 17 syllables. See how much truth you can convey in just a few words.
Please feel free to share your American Sentence in the comments…we’d love to read what you come up with!
About the Poets:
In 2011, Samantha Reynolds pledged to write one poem a day to try to “be present” and not miss the fleeting first year of her son’s life. Now she wouldn’t know how to stop even if she wanted to. Her popular poetry blog, bentlily.com was featured in ‘O’ Magazine and has sparked a movement of people around the world to slow down and savor their lives. When not racking up reams of poetry, she runs Echo Memoirs, a publishing company specializing in personal memoirs and company histories. She lives with her husband and son in Vancouver, BC.
Julie Brooks Barbour is the author of a chapbook, Come To Me and Drink (Finishing Line Press, 2012). Her poems have appeared in Waccamaw, Kestrel, UCity Review, diode, Prime Number Magazine, and on Verse Daily. She teaches at Lake Superior State University where she is co-editor of the journal Border Crossing. She can be found online at juliebrooksbarbour.weebly.com.
Lyla Willingham Lindquist is a claims adjuster, helping people and insurance companies make sense of loss. She works out of her home in the rural Midwest most days, and other days, out of yours. When she’s not crunching numbers or scaling small buildings, you can find her on the sofa with a gentle cup of tea. She’s an editor at Tweetspeak Poetry and also writes occasionally at LylaWillinghamLindquist.com.