Take One Before Bed

April 05, 2010

“Always be a poet, even in prose.”
--Charles Baudelaire

I once heard Stephen King recommend reading a poem every night before going to sleep.  He reads poetry himself, and writes it, too.

Stephen King?!  The King of Horror?!

Whether or not you enjoy Stephen King's works, if you've read him, you know that the man has a way with words--he's definitely a poet, even in prose. I admire his skill (even as I pull the covers over my head).

April is National Poetry Month, and I'm celebrating by dusting off the poetry books on my bedside table and reading a poem every night before bed.  

National Poetry Month attempts “to widen the attention of individuals and the media to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern,” according to the American Academy of Poets, sponsors of the event.

If you’re interested in participating in National Poetry Month, you can sign up for a poem-a-day email for the month of April here. Or download a free iTunes app called "Poem Flow" (an animated version of a poem reads itself to you).

Here are a few more simple things you can do (taken from http://www.poets.org/):

Google a poem. Do you have a line of verse running through your head? Many people do…and with the simple click of a mouse, they can discover where that line came from and explore the rest of the poem.

Buy a book of poems for your library. Many libraries have been hit by funding cuts, and would greatly appreciate the donation of a book of poetry.

Add verse to your email signature. Your email program may allow you to create a personalized signature that gets automatically added to the end of every email you send.

And, of course,

Read a book of poetry. (Or even just one poem, for that matter.)

Where to start? I’ve written about American Life in Poetry here and it remains one of my favorite places to explore poetry. In addition, here are two of my favorite books for sampling poetry or learning about it in general: Poet’s Choice: Poems for Everyday Life (selected and introduced by Robert Hass) and Poetry Daily: 366 Poems from the World’s Most Popular Poetry Website.

On a more fanciful note, try reading If I Were in Charge of the World and Other Worries (subtitled “poems for children and their parents”) or How Did I Get to Be 40…& Other Atrocities, both by Judith Viorst. Also, Love that Dog is one of the most touching books I’ve ever read, and one of the best examples of how poetry can enrich your daily life.

I know poetry is not to everyone’s taste, but I hope if you give it a chance, you’ll find it can be part of your life. Happy reading!

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  1. Hmmm, thanks for the encouragement. Poetry and I have seldom been friends through the years.

  2. Poetry can be fun, really! I know you'd like Love That Dog--it's a short novel written in free verse and has such a sweet story. It's really a kid's book, but I love it.

  3. I love poetry -- and had no idea it had an official month! If I had the genius, I'd have liked to be a poet, myself (and started out young writing in rhymed quatrains in iambic pentameter, LOL).

    Time to dust off the Apollinaire, and the Rilke, and the Anne Sexton, and the Ginsberg, and the Neruda and... well, you get the idea. :) I see you're a Neruda fan, as well. Thanks for letting us poetry lovers know about all those sites!

  4. You're welcome! I always think poetry in small doses is good for the soul.

  5. I found out about the American Life in Poetry site from you - and signed up for their weekly email. I've been enjoying that. Now I'm going to check out some of the other links - thanks for those!

  6. Oh - and I agree with you about Stephen King - he really has a way with words.

    I miss you in England - we're having a great time.

  7. I used to love poetry (and even wrote a few lines), but read more prose now. I agree with you re: Mr. King's way with words - amazing!

    I recently reintroduced myself to poetry of sorts with a book by Shel Silverstein "Where the Sidewalk Ends." If you have kids (or even if you have a unique sense of humor), this is a collection of lyrics to read aloud just to hear the rhythms! Thanks for the reminder to dust off our lonely poetry volumes.

  8. Cheryl--Glad you've found the poetry links helpful! I'm glad you're having fun in England--make sure you post some of your paintings!

  9. Elizabeth--I read some Shel Silverstein with my son when he was little. Another favorite "child's poet" was Jack Prelutsky. Very clever and fun poems.

    I've been reading a little Pablo Neruda before bed. I also like Mary Oliver, and have a book of her poems on my bedside table. Even though I enjoy poetry, I don't always make the time to read it. Poetry month has been a good reminder about taking that time.