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Where Do You ‘Stanza’ on Poetry?

April 4, 2018


Where Do You ‘Stanza’ on Poetry?


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Ka-choo!  Are you allergic to poetry, do you tolerate it well, or do you relish poetry?  Where do you “stanza” (stand) on poetry?  What is your poetry quotient?  On a scale from one to twenty–with one being “I would never even think of reading nor writing a poem” and twenty representing “I love and believe in poetry”–where do you “stanza”?


Have any of the poems which I have posted on my blog during the past five years made you think differently or more kindly about poetry?  One of the greatest compliments which I have read or heard a few times concerning my WORDWALK blog is:  “Although I usually do not like to read poetry, I do like your poems.”  This comment does make me smile because I hope that my poetic efforts do reach out to a variety of readers and writers.  Even if one first writes a poem for oneself, the poet must next consider his or her audience/readership.  During this first week of National Poetry Month, as usual, I am advocating for the celebration of poetry.  However, I am also thinking of encouraging others to read more poetry, write a poem, recite a poem, memorize a short poem, and/or discuss poetry with others.  Recently, I read the following quotation which President John Adams said to his son John Quincy Adams:  “You will never be lonely with a poet in your pocket.”  This sentiment not only well reflects National Poetry Month, but also reminds me of one of my professors in the Department of English at Indiana State University.  One day in the midst of a graduate English class, the stout and very tall professor shared with his forty students that throughout his service in World War II, he kept a small book of poetry in his pocket.  I imagine that by the end of his military deployment in Europe, he had memorized that book of poems, which, he explained, helped him to survive the war.  For a moment, a measure, a minute, or a month or more–poetry can transport the reader to another place–a kinder and gentler place, a more humorous place, a more adventuresome place, a more creative place, a harder place, or a whimsical place.  A poem can mirror, wipe away, change, heighten, or soothe our emotions.  So few words can do so much–if you give poetry a chance.


When you do not have time to read a chapter, short story, blog post, newspaper story, nor magazine article–you may have time for a few lines or several verses of poetry.  I believe poetry can be the microwave, yoga, or amethyst of the literary world.  From a book or from the internet, you can easily read one poem a day during this special month of April.


As so many types of prose surround us, many types of poetry encircle us also.  What is frequently inside a birthday card which you give or receive?  A poem.  What about your favorite type of music?  Those lyrics are poetry.  Have you thought of the first books that were read to you as a child?  Many of those classic and contemporary books for children contain rhyme.  Among the poetry from this current era back to the poetry of prior literary periods, other decades or centuries–you do have a world of poetry to explore and choose what you do like and enjoy.


Perhaps, I so conveyed my love of poetry to my students that none of them complained about writing poetry; and none were dismissive of poetry.  I was always delighted how my students joined the poetic experience–a highlight of the semester for my classes during my final fourteen years of teaching at the technical college.  When I introduced the poetry unit,  I was surprised when, each semester, one or two students told me that they had never before written a poem.  A number of students shared that they had not written a poem since elementary school.  Nevertheless, no one ever grumbled about having to write poems for the poetry unit.  Of course, the topics and assignments of each unit were detailed on the syllabus which students received on the first day of the semester.  Thus, the semester’s ending with “Poetry at the Podium” was not a surprise–but a special and memorable time of sharing.


If a student or some students asked how to begin a poem, how to find an idea for a poem, I did offer a few suggestions.


Frequently, my first suggestion was to select a word or phrase for initiating an acrostic poem.  The acrostic poetic form helps by giving you the first letter of the first word of the first line of the poem.  Does this sound like a word game?  I often think that writing poetry is so similar to playing a word game.  In an acrostic, you will prompt yourself with a letter to begin each subsequent line.  Also, you will devise for yourself a stopping point–an end line.  While no specific rhyme scheme nor number of syllables per line is required, you will want the acrostic to sound and look like a poem.  For example, I have chosen the word “tulips.”  Before, during, or after writing the acrostic, write a creative title–not just a label for your poetic effort.  You may wish to place the initial letter of each line in bold type or a larger font size.  In the short example below, you will notice that the first line begins with the letter “t,” the second line begins with “u,” the third line begins with “l,” the fourth line with “i,” the fifth line with “p,” and the final line with “s.”  For the initial word of each poetic line, try to avoid articles (a, an, the), conjunctions (and, but, or, nor, so, yet, for), and prepositions; thus, choose a stronger or more descriptive word (noun, verb, adjective, or adverb) for the first word of each line.


You did say that you would write an acrostic or another type of poem by next Wednesday–right?  Think of me as your Poetry Cheerleader!  Instead of waving pom-poms, I am waving poem-poems!


* * *


Autumn’s Gift to a Spring Garden


by Alice Jane-Marie Massa



Tender, agile bulbs, planted in Autumn,


underneath the chilly, changing earth,


languish no longer:


impatiently, I await


petals, graceful and pink blooms,


stretching tall to synchronize Spring.


* * *


Here is our motto for each week of National Poetry Month of 2018:


Read a poem, write a poem, share a poem!


Please return to WORDWALK next Wednesday for more suggestions and another sample of poetry.


Wishing you a creative and happy National Poetry Month of 2018,

Alice and the poetic pup Willow (my fourth Leader Dog since June 7, 2016)


April 4, 2018, Wednesday




From → Uncategorized

  1. Hi Alice, What a good cheerleader you are with your Poem-poem’s waving in the morning breeze on the fertile field of action where the writer’s are lining up to begin the game. Yes, I think poetry is a word game, too. I love playing in the game and this is one game were everyone WINS. This game enriches our lives in so many ways. You are so right in that we encounter before we most likely ever learn to speak, as a small child. I was reading Shakespeare and other texts to my first baby every day when she was brought home from the hospital. The result is that she is an avid reader today. I used to have her in a little carrier, on the kitchen table, so she could be comfortable as I read to her several times a day. Nursery rhymes and songs were part of our day, as well. We continued to have story time each evening for all of the 6 children through the years. This lasted through growing-up years at our home.

    • Hi, Lynda–Many thanks for sharing your wonderful comment on this blog post!  I greatly admire how you made reading to your children such an important part of your lives.  A special thanks to you for all that you do for National Poetry Month!

      With thanks for your being another cheerleader for poetry, Alice

  2. Thank you, Alice, for your clever and encouraging post about poems! Although I did not inherit the poetry gene in our family, I do enjoy reading poetry to my prekindergarten students. Just this week I told the children I was going to read a poem about dinosaurs. Their response was: “What’s a poem?” I suddenly realized that I have not identified my readings as a poem or as poetry. After a brief definition, I read the dinosaur poem, which we later dramatized and which the children enjoyed very much. In this month of April and in the future, I certainly plan to clearly identify poems that I share to broaden the children’s understanding and awareness of poetry. I always appreciate your lovely poems and your love of poetry!
    Love to you and Willow,

    • Hi, Mary–Special thanks for your insightful comment about poetry for young children!  I am always pleased to hear how teachers work poetry into the classroom, and I loved the question which your students asked.

      Enjoy a good Friday with your young students!  Alice and Willow

  3. My late husband was not a fan of poetry, but he liked my poems. Go figure. Thanks for this.

    • Hi, Abbie–Thanks for your comment and the “like” which you gave this poetry post.  I am not surprised that Bill liked your poetry.  The support that he gave your writing in earlier years still inspires you and your writing.  Through your blog, we have another great advocate for poetry–you.

      Enjoy National Poetry Month!


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