National Poetry Writing Month

If you don’t already know, April is National Poetry Writing Month, a month in which poets and poetry-enthusiasts write a poem every day. Now, I’m not sure I can actually commit to participating fully but I will definitely try for a mico-poem each day – both as an act of celebrating the art form and as a productivity tool.

So, I figured I’d post a few of those here and also mention a couple of interesting news items/opportunities that have come up. The first is that the $5000 Blake Poetry Prize for poetry exploring religious/spiritual themes, is now open.

Second, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRecord project currently has a call-out for voice-over submissions of poems. You can record a video of yourself reading a poem aloud – either a poem in the public domain, or one on their website – or upload the audio file, or even record other people performing the piece themselves. I love spoken word and performance poetry so I may well submit to this just for the joy of it. Of course, there’s always the bonus of potentially having your bit included in the HitRecord TV show.

Third, last night I came across this piece “Afghanistan’s Secret Feminism, Through Verse”, at The Millions. I found it deeply affecting. Poet Eliza Griswold has collated a book of landays, a form of two-line folk poetry mostly recited by women in Afghanistan. Contrasted with photography and her own commentary, ‘I Am the Beggar of the World’, sounds like an absolute must-have.

In particular, this struck me the hardest. “…consider Zarmina Muska: a teenage girl from Afghanistan, Muska set herself on fire in 2010 after her family discovered that she had been writing poems. As testaments to her emotions and free will, her poems were considered dishonorable.”

And I asked myself, would I set myself ablaze for poetry? Would you?
How much does it mean to you, really? It is a freedom we all too often take for granted. If stifled, I can imagine the unspoken words collecting in my gut. I can almost feel them clacking against each other like dry sticks, an ocean of tinder
just waiting for a spark. It is far harder to imagine, however, dousing myself in oil
and giving voice to flame with my body the blackened throat.

I’d like to think I have that sort of courage, but I cannot say for certain. Here then, with a renewed gratefulness for the ability to speak, to share these little fragments of dream, are my first three:

She said, poetry is surgery.
I said I’m no doctor
But my skin is scarred
with scalpel-edged words
& a poem a day keeps death at bay.


We are what we repeatedly do,
Aristotle said. A poet, then, is not
born but revealed – a shade more
with every poem, every word.


I love when sleep leaves
a light film over your eyes,
an intangible veil
granting life the quality
of weightless dream.


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