21 Days/21 Poems for (US) National Poetry Month

It’s that time of year again :).  Poetry is celebrated every April in the United States. The National Poetry Month was introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry. It is one of my favorite monthly celebrations.  The weekly poetry feature on this blog grew out of last year’s poetry month observances.

This year, I will participate  in Geoffrey Philp’s 21 Days/21 Poems for National Poetry Month. I’d been racking my brains for what to do and was coming up empty.  That’s the great thing about blogging; invariably someone comes up with a meme or challenge that addresses your reading needs to a T.    The rules (I’ve substituted some of the theme)are:

“One poem per day with a short paragraph about why you picked it.

A poem about childhood
A poem about motherhood/fatherhood
A poem about prejudice
A poem about a commonplace object/thing
A poem on everywhere you go there you are
A poem about flowers
A poem about war
A poem about life and living
A poem you’ve just read and loved
A poem about aging
A poem about place
A poem about Africa
An anthem poem
A poem about a disease or sickness
A love poem
A poem you wished you could have written
A Praise Poem
An elegy
A poem about relationships
An old favorite
A poem about poetry

Philip explains that he will post 21 poems “because I assume my readers are decent people who do not think poetry is life and will take a break over the weekends”.   I don’t share his sentiment at all 🙂 so I might post poems over the weekend.  I think I’ve done that before. Please refer and link to his post if you would like to participate. BTW, Geoffey Philp is a Jamaican writer and blogs on the works of contemporary Caribbean and South Florida writers.  I recommend his blog.

The American Academy of Poets has unveiled the official 2011 National Poetry Month poster (see below).

With all due respect to the Academy but what a bad poster.  It is hardly an invitation to read poetry.  In fact, it reinforces the perception of poetry as lines of difficult and obsure text.   The line “bright objects hypnotize the mind” is from the poem “A Word for You” by Elizabeth Bishop.  Let’s forget the poster and read the poem instead.

A Word for You

Look out! there’s that damned ape again
sit silently until he goes,
or else forgets the things he knows
(whatever they are) about us, then
we can begin to talk again.

Have you tried playing with your ring?
Sometimes that calms them down, I find.
(Bright objects hypnotize the mind.)
Get his attention on anything –
anything will do – there, try your ring.

The glitter pleases him. You see
he squints his eyes; his lip hangs loose.
You were saying? – Oh Lord, what’s the use,
for now the parrot’s after me
and the monkeys are awake. You see

how hard it is, you understand
this nervous strain in which we live –
Why just one luscious adjective
infuriates the whole damned band
and they’re squabbling for it. I understand

some people manage better. How?
They treat the creatures without feeling.
– Throw books to stop the monkeys’ squealing,
slap the ape and make him bow,
are firm, keep order, – but I don’t know how.

Quick! there’s the cockatoo! he heard!
(He can’t bear any form of wit.)
– Please watch out that you don’t get bit;
there’s not a thing escapes that bird.
Be silent, – now the ape has overheard.



    • In fact, I hadn’t realized how ambitious it was when I decided to do it. Choosing 21 poems, shoot, choosing just one can prove as time-consuming and as challenging as reading a full-length novel. But, I’m really also enjoying it :).


  1. I agree, I’m not a fan of that poster, but hey, I think it works for someone.

    Anyway, Elizabeth Bishop sounds like a poet I must read too…


    • Yes, she absolutely is a poet that you must must read. Her poetry is quite rich and truly fantastic. One of my favorites as well. I recommend One Art.


  2. Hey, I didn’t know that April was National Poetry Month in the USA. I’ll post a poem by an American author, then. The meme is very nice but I’m not very good at thinking “on topic”.

    I loved this poem by Elizabeth Bishop, yet I can’t really say what it’s about. I am the one who always misinterprets poetry, but then poets have confirmed that it is allowed, maybe even encouraged.


  3. Thanks for the reminder. I popped over from Winstonsdad’s blog after reading you comment an translations. You have added many books to my to-be-read list!


  4. I know I am certain to get up-to-date events of anything poetry here. Thanks for informing me about the national poetry month.


  5. Hello there.

    How wonderful. Had no idea it was poetry month across the seas. I look forward to reading what you offer up.

    I totally agree with you about that poster – awful.


    • Thanks for leaving coming by and leaving a comment. Yes, I’m quite looking forward to picking the 21 poems. Should be a lot of fun :).


Comments are closed.