Monday, June 1, 2009

Wrapping Up National Poetry Month 2009...and looking ahead to 2010

A month has passed since I posted the last of my National Poetry Month blog essays for 2009. It seems longer than a month, far longer. Even so, this time away was necessary to digest all of this years poems. Time apart from something we know and love teaches us a great deal. An athlete who trains daily will surely notice decreases in strength and stamina if he or she takes a month long break. A couple who spends a month apart will notice intricate details, some good and some bad, about themselves, their partner, and their relationship. A refugee who finally returns safely to his or her homeland will possess a dramatically altered perspective on life at home and abroad. We convince by our presence, but sometimes absence can be just as stirring.

e.e. cummings said “to destroy is the first step in any creation.” Gertrude Stein believed that “it takes a lot of time to be a genius, you have to sit around so much doing nothing, really doing nothing.” For William Butler Yeats it wasn't a question of inactivity; he knew that you “do not wait to strike till the iron is hot; but make it hot by striking.” Randall Jarrell offered an explanation about poetry that fits for pretty much any vocation, from family man to rock star, he wrote, “a good poet is someone who manages, in a lifetime of standing out in thunderstorms, to be struck by lighting five or six times.” Each of these quotations contains strings of truth and if we braid them together we might be able to come to a lasting conclusion. If we take Jarrell's consistency, luck, and lowered expectations, Yeats' carpe diem-ness, Stein's patience and focus, and cummings' courage to be truly ruthless and different in creating---well, then we've got something transcendent and epiphanous. We have combinations that seemingly should not exist together: we have absence and presence.

Each year that I continue this blog I feel clouds gathering over head with rumbles of thunder. With your help one of those bolts of lightning that Jarrell spoke of will come my way. April 2010 is a long way away, but my preparation for next year's National Poetry Month blog begins now. I've depleted my stash of favorite poems, writing on over 60 of my favorites in the last two years, and as a result I've come up with a unique experiment for next year. It will raise the level of audience interactiveness on my blog to an all-time high. Take a moment to reread your favorite poem—think about why you love it, how it strikes you and has stayed with you long after reading it, what it has taught you or made you see differently. After you've done this brief exploration, I challenge you to send me a quick note with the name of your favorite poem and the poet responsible for writing it. If I'm able to collect enough of “your favorite poems” then my plan is read them all and write essays based on your favorite poems...and if you decide to include some comments with your favorite poem then I'll certainly make sure they are also included alongside my essay on your favorite poem. The challenge has been delivered!

Take your time, but please know that I'm looking forward to hearing from each and every one of you.