How To Incorporate More Poems Into Your Life For National Poetry Month

April is National Poetry Month! Whether the last time you read a poem was today or way, way back in your dreaded high school English class, this month is a great time to incorporate a little more poetry into your life, I promise.

I know that many people struggle with poetry – for various reasons. Maybe your perception of poetry is that it was written by a bunch of old white guys who’ve been dead for centuries. Maybe you’ve never read poems about a subject that really resonates with you. Maybe your high school English classes were so boring you had to fight to stay awake.

Of course, if none of this applies to you because you’re a poetry fanatic already, then you don’t need any encouragement from me! But if you’re a poetry hater? Well, I used to be one of you.

I actually avoided taking any poetry courses as part of my English major during my first few years at the University of Iowa, which I really regret now. Oh well, can’t rewind time. But, I got into poetry last April when I chose a different poem to read each day of the month because I felt, as an English student, I “should” be reading more of it. I didn’t ever expect to fall in love with the genre, though!

So, yeah, I totally get it: a lot of people have a weird or bad relationship with poetry. Reading it can be a very beautiful, fulfilling hobby… if you’re willing to give it a chance. Will you join me? I’ve brainstormed some great ways to introduce poetry into your days.

1. Sign up to receive a poem a day from poets.org

I cobbled together a reading list of suggestions from friends, but this is a really easy way to get exposed to all different kinds of topics and styles of poetry. The emails include work by a mix of contemporary poets and classic ones, so if you’re not thrilled with a particular poem you’re sure to find something you do like within a couple of days.

2. Explore concrete poetry

In concrete poetry, the poem takes on a specific shape, usually that of its subject. I still remember writing a poem about my own terrible eyesight in the shape of my glasses way back in second grade! If your eyes glaze over whenever you try to read poetry, maybe what you need is something more playful. Try writing some of your own, too, if you’d like. It reminds me of doodling, which is probably why it’s so addicting.

3. Listen to (and watch!) spoken word poetry

I recommend Button Poetry for this. I’m not saying you can’t ever read poetry silently to yourself, but in my opinion when we read it that way we tend to read it without the emotion and emphasis on certain words that it deserves, which strips it of its power.

Exploring spoken word poetry on YouTube and other forms of social media (or even better, attending a live poetry reading at a place like Prairie Lights in downtown Iowa City!) will help poetry come alive for you. It can serve as a great start or end to your day, as well as a fun way to productively procrastinate (and feel super cultured while doing so).

I meant it when I said you should watch this kind of poetry rather than just listening to it. The best spoken word poets put their whole body and soul into each performance.

4. Read a novel told in verse

This is also a wonderful option if you’ve been trying to read more books lately. Novels told in verse tend to fly by, making you feel proud of yourself for finishing a book so quickly. Check out Book Riot’s list of 100 YA novels told in verse.

5. Read poetry written for children

Where did we ever get the idea that poetry wasn’t supposed to be fun? Poets who write for children understand better than anyone the need to hold their audience’s attention, which explains why I love children’s poetry so much. Some authors I recommend are Jack Prelutsky, Shel Silverstein, Jacqueline Woodson, Edward Lear and Roald Dahl.

6. Look for the poetry in your favorite songs

All songs are is poetry set to a beat! Read through lyrics from your favorite artists or albums and see who is the most poetic. What you find may surprise you. (Still not convinced? Start with this NYT article about Warsan Shire’s influence on Lemonade... and go from there.)

I’m not your professor. I’m not going to assign you a reading list or make you feel guilty if you don’t do the work– because poetry shouldn’t be work. Poetry should be fun! I’m here to encourage you to give poetry a chance this month… and all the months that come after.

Imagine poetry as a swimming pool: it’s all right if you’re not ready to do a cannonball into the deep end. Dipping your toes in is enough!