Tuesday, April 01, 2008

A Modest Poetry Challenge

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!

28 comments:

Seachanges said...

What a lovely idea - I've cross posted to this from my blog. :)

Amanda said...

wonderful idea, Kate. may i post a link to this post and the idea on my blog?

Katie said...

I like it!

Kate S. said...

Hooray! I'm glad that there's some enthusiasm for this idea. Amanda, please do link to the post on your blog, and seachanges I'm glad that you did. Let's get as many people writing about poetry as we can persuade to do so!

Oblique Poet said...

Count me in! I posted a general comment about my favorite poets on the weekend...I will make a point of following up with posts about the Collected Poems of Muriel Rukeyser and Art of the Poetic Line.

Jessica said...

This challenge is so perfect and needed! My post (hopefully the first of several) is here:
http://thebluestockingsociety.blogspot.com/2008/04/poetry-tuesday-william-butler-yeats.html

swissmiss said...

The blog Sharp Sand writes thoughtful critiques of poetry. His recent post The $100,000 Lineation is one place to start.

jenclair said...

Great idea, Kate! My first post is here.

Lisa said...

This is a great idea. http://pfeifferbooknotes.blogspot.com/2008/04/give-poetry-chance.html

Melanie said...

This is a great idea, Kate, but I'm insecure about saying anything analytical about poetry -- I feel a little cheeky doing so as I don't feel I know enough about it! Still, I will keep it in mind and try to give it a try.

Amanda said...

i'm going to try to post a new entry daily. silly and unlikely, but there you go:

amandaearl.blogspot.com

NigelBeale said...

Hi Kate,

Great idea.

I've just finished interviewing Canadian poet/critic David Solway. We talk about the line between poetry and politics, and what constitutes great poetry, comparing Yeat's The Second Coming and a poem by Harold Pinter. Will post these conversations (in audio) shortly on my site at www.nigelbeale.com

stefanie said...

Great idea Kate! I just posted about Adrienne Rich lat week but now I'm reading new Atwood poetry so I'm hoping I can finish and post about it in April :)

Deborah said...

I'm definitely up for this challenge and have already posted a bit about it within a post on Petrarch and poetry month on my book blog. Thanks so much for the invitation and inspiration.
Deborah

Kerry said...

Great idea! I'm in and will be writing about poetry all month. Now reading Alison Smith's Six Mats and One Year.

Emily Barton said...

Six months ago, I would have thought, "I can never do this challenge," but now I'm intrigued by your great idea (perhaps because I recently read Emily Dickinson and wrote about it, so I've already sort of taken the plunge). I'll be eager to see what everyone has to say, as I hope I'll be introduced to some great poetry.

richard said...

I'll definitely do this - I'd already decided to read some poetry this month, even before seeing this post. Now I've got actual reasons to do so!

J.C. Montgomery said...

This indeed was challenging, but hopefully I have done it justice.

Here is the link to my post

Susan said...

I've joined your challenge - here is my link: http://susanflynn.blogspot.com/2008/04/im-sucker.html
and I've also critiqued a poem on the same post, to encourage anyone who might be reluctant to join in! I must say, it has been almost twenty years since I last critiqued a poem, so I might have been a bit rusty but I did enjoy it (and the poem). Thanks very much for hosting it Kate, I hope it gets alot of participants! See you when I do Ted Hughes later...

Susan said...

I tried to post to your comment and it wouldn't let me. Trying again...I've joined the challenge, thank you for hosting it! I've cross-linked your post to my blog :-) and I've critiqued a poem so to encourage any shy readers that we're not perfect! http://susanflynn.blogspot.com/2008/04/im-sucker.html
On to Ted Hughes then, and will let you know when I do my post (not til near the end of the month!)

Anne said...

A great challenge, Kate. I'll try.

In the meantime, have you heard Carla Bruni speak-singing Yeats? It's AWESOME. She does Dickinson and...someone else, too.

I find that only read poetry when I'm teaching it and then I feel so firmly how idiotically I've been depriving myself...

richard said...

My first post is here, on Gillian Wigmore's lovely and recent Soft Geography.

Eloise said...

Thank you for coming up with this challenge, my love of poetry has been renewed. A post on an Ezra Pound Poem is here (I wish I knew how to put links into Blogger!):

http://eloisebythebookpiles.blogspot.com/2008/04/modest-poetry-challenge-ezra-pound-poem.html

Imani said...

I've stepped up to the plate! Here's my first post on a Walcott poem: http://imani.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/poetry-is-harrrrrrrd/

Seachanges said...

My poem is here: http://51stories.wordpress.com/2008/04/16/granta-poetry-month/
well, anyway it's on my blog! Maybe I'll manage to do another one soon. :)

Jessica said...

Here's another poetry post for your enjoyment. (I hope.)
http://thebluestockingsociety.blogspot.com/2008/04/poetry-tuesday-from-montauk-point.html

Thanks!

Greer said...

Hi Kate,

I like you blog and read regularly but this is my first time commenting. I took you up on your poetry challenge this month. I wrote a bit about John Keats's Ode to a Nightingale here:

http://asweetunrest.typepad.com/weblog/2008/04/ode-to-a-nighti.html

and I also talked about two poems from Antonia Fraser's collection called Scottish Love Poetry here:

http://asweetunrest.typepad.com/weblog/2008/04/prayer-to-be-wi.html

and here:

http://asweetunrest.typepad.com/weblog/2008/04/lost-love.html

Thank you for the encouragement to stretch myself and not just post the poem itself, but what I actually thought of it. I needed it! All the best to you.

Jessica said...

Here's one last poetry post for April:
http://thebluestockingsociety.blogspot.com/2008/04/poetry-tuesday-good-poems.html
Thanks!