Live Your Poem

April is National Poetry Month! Below a few poetic things that inspire me...

What a treat to find this postcard in my mailbox from my friend, the lovely and talented writer Irene Latham. Thank you for the colorful visual reminder, Irene!

The postman also delivered my Official 2014 National Poetry Month Poster from the Academy of American Poets which you can find here, along with activities and inspiration for the month (and all year long).  I look forward to receiving the new poster every year and this year's quote comes from Walt Whitman's Song of Myself:  “Failing to fetch me at first keep encouraged. Missing me one place search another. I stop somewhere waiting for you.”

Hanging in my window, above my "corner office" in my kitchen is this sweet and colorful quote you may remember Gwyneth Paltrow defiantly proclaimed in the film Shakespeare in Love. I bought it at the Portland Farmers Market a few years back, but sadly the artist Laini Taylor no longer makes her Laini's Ladies although apparently some fans still collect and trade them.

I think I've mentioned this before but each morning the first email I like to read is the Writer's Almanac from Garrison Keillor and PBS.  For me, this dose of a daily poem and fascinating tidbits from literary history is akin to meditation.

Samantha Reynolds writes the blog Bentlily, where she posts the daily poems she writes about her family.  She started the practice when her son was a wee babe and everyone kept telling her to savor the moment, as kids grow so fast.  She mentally takes note of little moments during her day and then she sits down in the evening and gives herself ten minutes to write a free form poem about a little nugget from her day.  She refers to this practice as "the art of noticing your life."  Oprah was inspired by her and so am I.  Be duly warned, her poems often prompt tears from laughter or poignancy.

My brother Matthew and I used to have a Sunday night poetry reading, which needs to be recommenced.  We'd both select a poem to share with the other over the phone or email or even text sometimes if we didn't have the time to chat.  Poetry was a shared love and a way for us to connect on a weekly basis, an extra reason to pick up the phone.  We both enjoyed reading poems to each other and had such fun introducing new poems or poets to each other, while other times sharing classics.  While that tradition has waned, still when we find ourselves visiting the other in various places, late night poetry readings fueled by wine and laughter often ensue.  As much as I love poetry, there aren't that many people in my life who like to read poetry aloud with me. We need to reignite those Sunday night poetry readings and to kick it off I'm working on an anthology of the poems we've shared over the years.  Oh yes, I've kept a list.

Mark your calendar for Poem-In-Your-Pocket-Day on April 24th!  

I'll leave you today with a poem about--what else?--noticing the here and now.  That is what all poets are really writing about in each and every poem no matter the country or the century.  In William Stafford's title below, I like how he points his finger at each of us to hold us accountable.  There is an anecdote about Stafford at one of his poetry readings:  After one poem, a person in the audience shouted out rudely, "I could have written that!"  Stafford smiled magnanimously and said, "But you didn't."  Pause.  "But you could write your own."   

You don't have to read or write poetry to live poetically.  Perhaps your poetry is photography or the food you cook for your family.  Perhaps the home you decorate is the poem you inhabit.  Perhaps your poem is the marathon you train for or a sporadic yoga practice or the sports you play with your kids on the weekend.  Perhaps your poem is the ongoing text conversation with your best friend or the full email correspondence with your lover. Whatever it is that makes you come alive, write it, make it, do it, live it.  As Oscar Wilde so eloquently put it, "Life has been your art.  You have set yourself to music.  Your days are your sonnets."

You Reading This, Be Ready

Starting here, what do you want to remember?
How sunlight creeps along a shining floor?
What scent of old wood hovers, what softened
sound from outside fills the air?

Will you ever bring a better gift for the world
than the breathing respect that you carry
wherever you go right now? Are you waiting
for time to show you some better thoughts?

When you turn around, starting here, lift this
new glimpse that you found; carry into evening
all that you want from this day. This interval you spent
reading or hearing this, keep it for life –

What can anyone give you greater than now,
starting here, right in this room, when you turn around?

~William Stafford


  1. Dear Sarah - thank you for this lovely post! Happy to be part of your National Poetry Month. I love your Laini's Lady and the Sunday night poetry reading anthology project... awesome! Stafford was a pretty amazing guy. Have you ever read the his son Kim's book EARLY MORNINGS? Really great reading for poets, and well, PEOPLE. Love to you, friend! xo

    1. Just requested Early Morning from the library - thank you for the recommendation!