Every year in April I read this article. Every year I chew on it like a piece of gristle. And every year, I come up with a different conclusion.
At first I thought, as with any tradition, it is subject to those who take it up and perpetuate it: if we are to make a National Poetry Month our own, was have to run riot with it. And then I reread it, and thought, agreeing, how insulting that the Academy of American Poets can’t see the poetry that exists everywhere: what is all of hip hop, then? What of Joanna Newsom’s lyrics? A good half of assemblage art? Where did Def Poetry Jam come from, why did it run six years, and why do I see all these packed open mic nights? Is that not poetry enough for you? Or do we only count dead white guys and a few select women? What is poetry but another way to shriek our righteous rage and hurt and lust and wanting into the night?
And this year? This year National Poetry Month just sticks in my craw. Where is this line between the accessible and the ivory tower academic in verse? Where do my tirades and myth-lickings fit in? Hell if I know.
But I do know that I breathe poetry. I write it, consume it like flame every time it’s laid in front of me. I know the stuff we’re encouraged to read during April doesn’t have the gut punch Marge Piercy delivered to me in high school. Honestly? I don’t need a damned month to set time aside to appreciate poetry, especially if it’s going to be tame verse, spayed verse, leashed verse. I’m tired of Emily Dickinson. All her wry spark has been stamped out by years of mechanical teaching. You can take your month and eat it, choke on its sugar nectar like a wad of peanut butter.
But if there must be a poetry month, if you must shove dry leaves down my throat, I will at least fight back, scrawling “fuck love, or at least rom coms and their tepid notions of desire” in chalk on sidewalks, along with other lines that continue on for miles. I will scream love poems drunkenly at the top of my lungs to Pandora herself, beg her to leave Hindsight and marry me in Massachusetts, bringing all her baggage, hell, it’s worth it. I will leave little folding books of prose poems accordioned out and dangling from park signs disclaiming all belief that one mind can know another, but denying solipsism, somehow, and referencing George Carlin, Eddie Izzard, and John Cleese. Screw your good taste. I will graffiti dirty limericks on your buildings and compose odes to Sappho and Ganymede to recite in mixed company. I will be ferocious with my poems. They will not be better for it, but they will not be worse. But that is how I will spend my damned April.