The month of April is celebrated for many occasions. From Easter to winter’s final hurrah, the month is notorious for marking the light at the end of the tunnel. It also commences the onset of National Poetry Month, 30 days dedicated to exploring and honoring the unique styles and emotions elicited by poets around the country.
Initiated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, April was deemed the month that allowed for a significant level of participation amongst both teachers, readers and writers of poetry. Goals for the month-long celebration include highlighting the revolutionary work and continuous achievements of American poets, inspiring support for poems and poetry and expanding the consideration given to the art through both national and local media, according to Poets.org.
Despite its sometimes daunting and inaccessible nature, poetry can be understood and enjoyed by all, no matter their education or interests. Through elaborate choices of words, imagery and metrical composition, poetry offers unique insight into the perception of self and the power of the English language.
Kenyon College freshman Sarah Adelson emphasized the significance of poetry compared to other creative mediums such as fiction and essay writing.
“Poetry allows you to place together ideas or concepts that you may not be able to replicate with other art forms,” Adelson said. “You can essentially play by your own rules, your own words.”
Compared to other writing styles, one unique aspect of poetry is its lack of distinct rules and boundaries. While guidelines exist, such as avoiding cliches and dedicating awareness to form, poetry is a means of crafting expression through chaos and order.
“It’s okay if it doesn’t make sense to someone else or if the reader has a different way of looking at what you wrote,” Adelson said. “At the end of the day, poetry gives breath to your thoughts.”
Poetry offers infinite interpretations and understandings as an artistic outlet, allowing all individuals to take what they need from the words before them.
For Adelson, poetry has been a crutch and channel for addressing personal challenges.
“To me, poetry means limitless self-expression. I personally write poetry at the intersection between science and philosophy, which is incredibly satisfying,” Adelson said. “I find that this unique synthesis between two disciplines births a totally new paradigm on how one can perceive life or their own complexes. As someone who struggles with mental health, poetry has always been my main medium to express my pain or complicated thoughts.”
DePaul english and creative writing professor Kathleen Rooney believes poetry can offer much more beyond the traditional bounds of education.
“Poetry makes us understand how language works on a fundamental level, and how carefully chosen words hold so much power over our emotions,” Rooney said. “I think it is also important to note the equal harm within inadequately chosen words. Even if you are certain, you will never partake in writing poetry, sometimes there are things you want to say that only poetry can express and truly capture.”
Rooney has published three poetry books, deeming the style of writing her first love. She remains a firm believer that anybody can understand and write poetry.
“As my friend and fellow poet Elisa Gabbert said, ‘poetry helps if you read it like you want to impress it,’ which is to say when you approach a poem, relax; there is no definite answer, but be intellectually ready to break it down, and perhaps find the meaning that rings true to you,” Rooney said.
When asked about her favorite poet, Rooney spoke with no hesitation.
“Bill Knott, he was my professor at Emerson College. Knott has an unusual blend of impulses in his work, ranging from a huge technical skill when it comes to form, including rhyme and meter, to a deceptively simple knack for free verse that manages to sound conversational yet strange.”
David Welch, assistant director of DePaul’s Publishing Institute and managing editor of Poetry East, considers ignorance towards the expressive rooted in the way poetry is taught.
“I think so many people hold this attitude towards it because they were told that poetry is something they wouldn’t like or that it was too difficult to understand,” Welch said. “It’s ingrained that one has to torture themselves in order to understand it. It is a self-perpetuating cycle.”
For those wanting to get involved in the world of poetry, but are unsure of where to begin, Welch suggests focusing on particular interests or topics such as the ocean or politics.
“If you can find the thing that makes it easier beyond the form, then the vessel is already easier to approach; by narrowing in on the things that interest us, poetry already becomes more accessible and comprehensible,” Welch said.
While National Poetry Month may only last 30 days, it’s valuable to acknowledge the lessons, advice and resilience in each body of language.
In the wise words of “Wild Geese” by Mary Oliver, “whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place in the family of things.”