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6 Poems to Inspire You During National Poetry Month

These poets put us in the mood to celebrate and maybe write a line or two


Part of the Vitality Arts Special Report

April is National Poetry Month. How are you celebrating?

I hadn’t given this question much thought until I started watching the videos in the “30 Poets, 30 Days” project created by Twin Cities PBS affiliate TPT (the parent of Next Avenue). What started as an item on my to-do list turned into a labor of love. I wound up watching all 30 poetry readings in one sitting on one cold gray April afternoon — and reaching for a tissue more than once.

Truth be told, I hadn’t thought of myself as much of a poetry person. But now, feeling humbled and moved by each of these poets, I’m intent on embracing National Poetry Month and encouraging others to do the same.

So how will you celebrate? By reading Tyehimba Jess’ book Olio, which just won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry? By watching the videos from the 30 Poets project (six of them are featured below to give you a taste)? Or how about by writing a poem?

In the past, we’ve asked Next Avenue readers to share their art, write six-word memoirs and respond to surveys about their artistic pursuits. Each time, the responses have amazed us. I bet we also have plenty of poets among us.

Poetry can be intimidating even for professional writers, but I’m going to try to take the plunge and I hope you do, too. As Maya Angelou notes in the video below, “When a person says, ‘Oh, you’re an artist, and that means you’re crazy,’ what he or she leaves unsaid is, ‘Boy, I wish I was as free as you are.’”

Nothing like a little encouragement from none other than writer extraordinaire Angelou to celebrate your inner artist by indulging in a little poetry this month.

1. Maya Angelou reads the poem that inspired I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

2. Robert Bly reads ‘My Father at Eighty-Six’

3. Yusef Komunyakaa reads ‘Facing It,’ about his Vietnam War experience

4. Margaret Hasse reads ‘My Mother’s Lullaby’

5. Ed Bok Lee reads his ‘Ode to Bruce Lee’

6. Elizabeth Alexander (poet at President Obama’s 2009 inauguration) reads ‘Race’

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By Heidi Raschke
Heidi Raschke is a longtime journalist and editor who previously was the Executive Editor of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine and Living and Learning Editor at Next Avenue. Currently, she runs her own content strategy and development consultancy.@heidiraschke
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