April is National Poetry Month in Canada and the U.S. and in honour of the occasion I’m proposing a modest poetry challenge. I don’t need a challenge to get me reading poetry. I read lots of it on a regular basis. But I don’t post about it very often. I feel confident of my capacity to distinguish between good, bad, and mediocre poems and to allot my reading time and book buying dollars accordingly. But I find myself at a bit of a loss when it comes to articulating precisely how and why I arrive at these judgments. I feel as if I don’t have an adequate critical vocabulary or a broad enough frame of reference when it comes to writing about poetry.
On the one hand, knowing my own limits and showing a bit of humility doesn’t seem like such a bad thing. But on the other, I recognize that poetry gets precious little review ink, and it seems almost irresponsible not to do my bit to spread the word about poetry that I think is worth reading. On the latter ground, I’ve decided it’s time to shelve my writing about poetry inferiority complex (no doubt related to my writing poetry inferiority complex) once and for all.
I know that some of you are avid readers of and articulate writers about poetry; indeed, some of you are accomplished poets. But in the grand scheme, while I see quite a lot of posting of poems on blogs, I don’t see a lot of posting about poetry, at least not in comparison to the plethora of posts that regularly appear about fiction and non-fiction titles. This leads me to believe that some of you may share my hesitancy to write about poetry and welcome a challenge aimed at moving beyond it. So, on to the challenge.
The challenge is simply to post about poetry at least once in the month of April. The post could be a review of a collection of poetry, a broader meditation on the work of a favourite poet, or a detailed analysis of a single poem. Simply posting a poem doesn't count unless you go on to say something about that poem. The idea is to dare to be critical (as in analytical, not necessarily negative) and venture an opinion.
No one need commit to this challenge in advance. Just let me know, via e-mail or the comments section below this post, when you make a poetry post and provide me with a link, and I’ll do a grand roundup at the end of the month. There will, of course, be prizes! Everyone who makes a poetry post will be eligible for an end-of-month book draw. If you make multiple poetry posts, your name will go into the draw drum multiple times thereby increasing your chances. I haven’t yet settled on precisely what the prizes will be, but I have in mind a number of fine contemporary Canadian poetry collections that would make a welcome addition to any library. So, go forth and read poetry and then share your impressions of what you've read with the rest of us!