By Megan Carbiener
With quarantine comes quaran-TIME and what could be a better way to spend our newly-found time than with reading and writing? Although this uncharted and uncertain period triggers anxiety, hesitancy, and boredom, I’m thinking it may also prompt our creativity and inspiration. Canceled events and more time at home allow for self-reflection and acknowledgement of our values, interests, and priorities. One of the best ways for me to process through this time is by expressing my thoughts and emotions through writing. By externally releasing the words in my head and physically imprinting them on paper, or typing them out on a digital device, I am more able to understand myself. Similarly, by reading others’ writing, I am better able to understand and empathize with those around me. Writing is therapeutic and cathartic, acting as a creative release from the stressors of the world. It seems more than coincidental to me that quarantine lines up with April, which is National Poetry Month! I hope this month will result in an outpouring of writing, reading, and specifically poetry during the chaos and disorientation.
Now I know, not everyone loves poetry, but I believe everyone should at least pick up a book of poetry once in their life. Not only to find its intrinsic value and appreciate it as art, but also because they just might find something they connect to. Poetry is so diverse that it’s hard for me to trust in sayings like, “there’s no poetry for me,” or “poetry just isn’t for everybody.” I admit, sometimes poetry can be trite, too emotionally charged, or downright restricting. However, not all poetry has to rhyme or have a strict meter. Poetry can flow freely with few rules, like free verse poetry, or it can sound conversational, like prose poetry. Even the lyrics of songs can be considered members of the poetic family. So pick up your pen, laptop, or feather quill and start gathering your thoughts. Jot down some notes, brainstorm, and just write! It doesn’t have to be publishable or even worth sharing with anyone but you. As long as you connect with it, it’s worthy of your time.
If you need some help getting started, here are some popular poetry formats, examples, and sources for you to use to get your creative juices flowing…
One of the simplest forms of poetry is the limerick. These light and humorous verses are only made up of five lines. Lines 1, 2, and 5 rhyme with each other, and lines 3 and 4 rhyme with each other as well. The 1st, 2nd, and 5th lines should contain 8-9 syllables while the 3rd and 4th lines only have 5-6 syllables. Here is a fun example:
Although this example is about birds, you can make your limerick about anything that interests you. If you need a little more inspiration, be sure to put the book Bennett Cerf’s Out on a Limerick: A Collection of over 300 of the World’s Best Printable Limericks on hold at AJPL and pick it up at our drive-up window. With over 300 examples, this source is sure to turn you into a “limerick lover” in no time.
If you’re looking to challenge your poetic prowess, try crafting a poem with a specific number of syllables in each line. You can choose 5, 10, 20, or create an interesting pattern. For all you math lovers out there, in the world of mathematics there’s a series of numbers known as the Fibonacci sequence. In this sequence each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. It begins with 1, 1, and 2 because 1 + 1 = 2, and the pattern goes on. Here is a sample poem where the syllable count corresponds with each number in the Fibonacci sequence:
Adventure on a Page: A Fibonacci Poem
The sweet smell
Of the fresh grass and
The chill of the crisp breeze soothe me
Lying on the green blanketed earth I open my book
I become one with nature and the characters in the novel are my companions
Bees buzz by
And as I explore
This literary world unfolds
Books come alive and when investing in a good read
Expect nothing less than freedom, adventure, fulfillment, knowledge, and joy to ensue
Another fun way to incorporate math into poetry might be to use the digits from pi as a pattern for your syllables. Start with 3, then 1, 4, and so on. As you can see, poetry can be applied to many subjects!
If these poems have too many rules and structures for you, give free verse or prose poetry a try! Prose poetry is particularly popular as a form of modern poetry because of the freedom it allows the author. Instead of verse form, these poems are written with prose, but they still demonstrate great imagery, insight, and emotion. A popular contemporary poet, Rupi Kaur, has authored two books of prose poetry, Milk and Honey and The Sun and Her Flowers that discuss love and loss. Both books are available at AJPL to put on hold, and available as ebooks on hoopla. Here’s an example of a prose poem:
Loves of a Lover
If we determine identity by that which we love, I’m sunshine on a chilled morning and the velvety cedar smoke signal coming from my speckled mug. My eyes are faded jeans that squeeze me just right and my hair is granddad’s leather recliner, slick and hickory. My cheeks are water balloons thrown in a sneak attack and my dimples mischievous twins that everybody wants to know. If a smile is the window to the soul, then mine’s a wide open garden gate, teeming with flowers. I’m a used bookstore with an affinity for dust and dog-eared pages. I’m the glue that sticks to palms after finishing a handmade gift and a road trip playlist on repeat during a sunset drive to no-place in particular. I sparkle like a soda-pop promptly poured over ice, and my forever humming mimics the gentle consistency of a ticking clock. I’m unexpected mail and macaroni and cheese, bare-feet in the dewy grass and aching cheeks from incessant laughter. I am what I love, and perhaps I love a little too dearly.
Not only is poetry available in a variety of subjects, but it’s also available for a wide range of readers. Shel Silverstein’s books of poetry Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic are perfect for young readers. Both books can be put on hold at AJPL. And for even younger poets, Baby Einstein: Baby Shakespeare World of Poetry is also a great choice to put on hold and pick up at our drive-up window. It’s great to foster a love for poetry at a young age, but for our more experienced poet-enthusiasts, Favorite Poems in Large Print is even eligible for holds. Don’t think you Western lovers have been forgotten! Saddle up and open up Cowgirl Poetry: One Hundred Years of Ridin’ and Rhymin’.If you’re a sucker for the classics, The Canterbury Tales is available at AJPL as well as a wide variety of works by Shakespeare, Homer, Poe, Frost, Whitman, Wordsworth, and Dickinson. Even if you’re in need of a poem to read before each meal, Hot Potato: Mealtime Rhymes is sure to suit your mind and stomach just fine.
It’s easy to see that inspiration comes from anywhere and everywhere, and so does poetry. With April being National Poetry Month, think about picking up or downloading one of our books on poetry to get inspiration and insight about the writing process. Then consider writing some poetry of your own. Go forth and create, and have a Happy National Poetry Month!
“Poetry is what happens when your mind stops working, and for a moment, all you do is feel.”