Got poems? Got pockets? Are you ready for Poem in Your Pocket Day? It’s this week, and we think it’s one of the best ideas that has taken root in April as part of National Poetry Month.
Poem in Your Pocket Day began more than a decade ago in New York City, the Academy of American Poets made it a truly national celebration in 2008, and since then folks all across the country have joined in the celebration. This year, the day is Thursday, April 24.
“The idea is simple: select a poem you love... then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends.” You could choose a familiar classic nursery rhyme or a poem by Emily Dickinson or William Blake, since so many of theirs are truly pocket-sized... or browse through the library here at About.com Poetry—we have the poems indexed by title and by poet’s name... or click around in AAP’s collection of PDF poems... or copy out a favorite from one of the books on your shelf at home... just don’t leave home without your poem on Thursday, and don’t forget to take it out of your pocket and read it to someone during the day!
Spring is officially here, “Sumer Is Icumen In,” and with the passing seasons comes a new round of poetry competitions. Poets who’ve been working on a manuscript may be interested in the book and chapbook publication competitions, and those who have their eye on publication in a journal or periodical will want to enter the single poem competitions. Whichever route you choose, it’s time to gather your stamps and envelopes, or go for the contests that accept online entries—you’ll notice that many of the contests on this list will take submissions either way.
- Omnidawn Poetry Chapbook Contest (postmark or online submission deadline April 22)
- Richard Peterson Poetry Prize from Crab Orchard Review at Southern Illinois University (single poem publication, online submissions only, deadline April 28)
- Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press for a first book to be published in the Pitt Poetry Series (postmark deadline April 30)
- Berkshire Prize from Tupelo Press for a first or second book (postmark or online submission deadline April 30)
- Marsh Hawk Press Poetry Prize, two awards named for Robert Creeley and Rochelle Ratner for publication of books up to 84 pages (postmark or electronic submission deadline April 30)
- Noemi Press Book Award for Poetry (online submission only, deadline April 30)
- Canada Writes Poetry Prize for Canadian poets (airline magazine/Web site publication, mail or online submission deadline May 1)
- The Malahat Review Far Horizons Award for Poetry (for up to 3 poems by poets who have not yet published a first book, mail/email entry deadline May 1)
- The Robert Dana/Anhinga Prize for Poetry (book publication and a reading tour, postmark/electronic submission deadline May 15)
- Slapering Hol Press Chapbook Award (postmark or online submission deadline May 15)
- Loraine Williams Poetry Prize from The Georgia Review (single poem publication, postmark or online submission deadline May 15)
- sub-Terrain Lush Triumphant Literary Awards (for a suite of 5 related poems, postmark or online submission deadline May 15)
- New Letters Prize for Poetry (for a group of 3 - 6 poems, postmark or online submission deadline May 18)
- Best New Poets Open Competition from the University of Virginia (single poem publication in annual anthology, online entries accepted April 5 - May 20)
- The Field Poetry Prize from Oberlin College Press (book publication, online submission only, manuscripts read during the month of May)
- Lois Cranston Memorial Poetry Prize from Calyx (for up to 3 poems, postmark or online submission deadline May 31)
- The Bordighera Poetry Prize for Italian American poets (book publication in a bilingual edition, postmark deadline May 31)
- Boston Review Poetry Contest (for up to 5 poems, postmark or online submission deadline June 2)
- Barrow Street Press Book Contest (postmark or online submission deadline June 30)
- Omnidawn First/Second Book Contest (postmark or online submission deadline June 30)
Required reading before you submit to any contests:
“What’s Really Wrong with Poetry Book Contests?,” by David Alpaugh
How to Put Together a Poetry Manuscript for Publication
“A Word To the Wise: On Entering Your Poems in Competition,” by Kurt Heintz
“You Do It Because You Love It,” by S.A. Griffin
Sometimes the point of a poem is just to have fun with words—that’s why they call it word-play! Among the kinds of poem defined in our Glossary of Poetic Forms is that most beloved of nonsense poems, the limerick. We have a self-illustrated selection of Edward Lear’s limericks and links to the best places to find more limericks around the Net—have fun!
Poems are coming to life in performance all over the US this National Poetry Month, and if you’re looking for the definitions of the New Performance Poetry, this is the place ask your Poetry Guide Bob Holman. See his manifesto “Open Mic: Definitions, Rules, Etiquette, Irony.” The poetry open mic is “a meta-metaphor for freedom, a place where your art can be presented to the public at large,” a place where “all humans are created equal—so long as you don’t go over the time limit!” Our archive of articles on poetry slam, spoken word, and the late 20th century performance poetry renaissance is a historical treasure trove.
Then if you want further definitions from the younger generation, Eman’s the one to ask: she was just 16 and already hosting two weekly open mics when we interviewed her in the millennium year, “HipHop, Performance Poetry, Spoken Word, Slam: Definitions from a Teenager.”
And then it will be time to get out there and join in the fun—an endeavor for which you might want to consult our performance poetry how-tos:
Sonnets come in many flavors—originating in medieval Italian, the sonnet has captured the imagination of poets all over the world, who have adapted the form to many different languages. The first sonnets were lyrics addressed to the poet’s beloved—like Shakespeare’s “Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?” or later, Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.” But it turns out this 14-line structure can accommodate a great variety of poetic worlds, and if you read through the chronologically indexed poems in our collection of sonnets, you will see some of this amazing variation. In the collection is a sonnet addressing Death, John Donne’s “Death Be Not Proud”... a sonnet describing a literary encounter with greatness, John Keats’ “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”... a sonnet addressing the American symbol of immigration, the Statue of Liberty, Emma Lazarus’ The New Colossus”... a sonnet on a warrior’s death on foreign soil, Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier”... Gerard Manley Hopkins’ inimitable sonnet containing “God’s Grandeur”... and Robert Frost’s odd sonnet of 20th century urban loneliness, “Acquainted with the Night”... what a magnificently flexible form of poem this is!
That briefest of poems, the haiku form migrated from Asia, took deep root in English, and now sprouts up all over the place. Here on the About.com network, there are collections of tree haiku, dinosaur haiku, cat haiku, Arizona haiku and Buddhist spring haiku. We’ve seen biker haiku (“baiku”) in The Boston Globe and curbside haiku on the streets of New York City.
For National Poetry Month 2013, New York Times senior software geek Jacob Harris unveiled Times Haiku, a compilation of haiku extracted from stories in The Times by a syllable-counting algorithm, which came up with found poems like these:
Slowly, he began
to believe those things that he
used to say in jest.
from “The Grouse in the Heart of Mumbai,” a letter from India by Manu Joseph, published November 21, 2012
The buzzing of a
thousand bees in the tiny
curled pearl of an ear.
from Life After Life, a novel by Kate Atkinson, quoted in the review published March 26, 2013
It’s hard to find yourThat algorithm is still busily counting syllables and constructing haiku at the Times Web site, the editors of The Brooklyn Paper were recently inspired to select Brooklyn-inspired haiku from their own headlines, and NPR has a special series called Haiku in the News in The Protojournalist, “a news experiment... original reporting in a variety of storytelling forms.” Haiku are indeed everywhere!
bearings in the middle of
from “A Modest Proposal for More Back-Stabbing in Preschool” by Carina Chocano, published March 29, 2013
Of American sports, baseball is the certainly the most literary. A baseball game tells a story inside the confines of its form, just as a poem does. Its balls and strikes, hits and outs, runs and innings are very like the echoes and rhymes, stresses and stops, lines and stanzas of a poem. Many, many poets have immortalized their baseball heroes in poems, or used the images and structures of baseball to illuminate their poems. For anyone who is interested in tracing the connections between baseball and poetry in American life, here are a few interesting things we’d recommend reading:
- “Baseball and Verse, from Tinker to Evers to Big Papi” a 2007 article by Levi Stahl from the journal at the Poetry Foundation.
- “Infield Chatter” by Michael Harty, a baseball poem that was selected as a winner in the InterBoard Poetry Competition.
- Whitman McGowan’s cut-up of “Casey at the Bat” and “Kubla Khan”—“Kubla at the Bat.”
Amazing. Lawrence Ferlinghetti, nearly 95 years old, is still making poems and pictures, still speaking out about the events he sees happening around him, both locally and across the world. His latest book is Blasts Cries Laughter, “Fearless new poems by America’s everyman bard,” just published in January by New Directions. And he has stuck around long enough to publish his own history: Ferlinghetti’s reflections on his travels over the last 60+ years will be published next year in a book that will combine selections from his unpublished, handwritten travel journals with published, but out-of-print articles and essays, plus original artwork and facsimiles of his notebooks. This is going to be a must-read book, the ultimate in on-scene reporting from the heart of the 20th century poetry world.
from The New York Times:
“Ferlinghetti Travel Journals to Be Published,” by William Grimes
“The poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, at 94 one of the last living links to the Beat generation, has sold his travel journals to Liveright Publishing, a division of W.W. Norton, which plans to publish them in September 2015 as Writing Across the Landscape: Travel Journals (1950-2013).... The journal material, most of it being published for the first time, sheds as much light on Mr. Ferlinghetti’s political passions as on his relationships with the Beat writers. His itinerary takes him to Mexico, Haiti and North Africa, to Cuba in the throes of the Castro revolution, to Franco’s Spain, to Soviet Russia for the 1968 Writers’ Congress, and to Nicaragua under the Sandinistas.”
More on Ferlinghetti and the Beat Generation:
The Beat Goes On: Lawrence Ferlinghetti Is Still a Rebel (interview by Victor Infante)
Hearing the Voices of the Beat Generation (on Chuck Workman’s documentary film, The Source)
Poetry As News, Poetry Shaping History (on Ferlinghetti’s “Poetry As News” column)
Howl (noun). Howl (verb). Howl, the poem heard round the world. (on Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl”)
We can think of no better way to mark today’s spring equinox (in the northern hemisphere) than to direct you to our collection of classic poems inspired by gardening and the garden environment. The idea of a garden—a cultivated enclosure, a sanctuary both for the fauna and flora nurtured within its bounds and for the men and women who tend them—has been an important metaphor for poets going back to the very beginning. But it takes many forms and permutations....
In the story of the first garden, the Biblical Garden of Eden is created by God as a home for Adam and Eve, and it is only after the Fall, when they are banished from Eden, that they must do the work of cultivation to feed themselves.... The gardener’s speech in Shakespeare’s Richard II is a parable of pruning, teaching the importance of cutting out the weeds and “superfluous branches” in a kingdom or a garden.... Andrew Marvell takes both sides of the metaphor, celebrating the joys of solitude in the enclosure of “The Garden” and complaining about the hazards of over-meddling gardeners in “The Mower, Against Gardens”.... For Coleridge, the garden begins as a prison where he is confined while his friends wander in wild, sublime nature, but in the end, ever the Romantic, he learns to take pleasure in its enclosed beauty:
“No plot so narrow, be but Nature there,Our collection goes on to measure the manifold effects of gardens and gardening on many other poets: Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s “Deserted Garden” remembered from childhood.... Matthew Arnold’s celebration of London’s urban refuge in Kensington Gardens.... Walt Whitman’s miraculous compost.... Robert Louis Stevenson’s view of the worker-bee gardener through the eyes of a grasshopper child.... Amy Lowell’s luxurious Imagist view “Behind a Wall”.... Edna St. Vincent Millay’s wry parable of “Blight”.... e.e. cummings’ early sonnet “ This is the garden: colors come and go”.... and Robert Frost’s village story of “A Girl’s Garden”.... Enjoy the fruits and flowers of these cultivations!
No waste so vacant, but may well employ
Each faculty of sense, and keep the heart
Awake to Love and Beauty!”
The bicentennial anniversary of the birth of Ukraine’s revered and beloved national poet, Taras Shevchenko, was this week, in the midst of the crisis over Crimea—highlighting his role as a godfather of Ukrainian national and cultural consciousness:
from Public Radio International’s “The World”:
“A 19th-century poet is a symbol of resistance in Ukraine,” by Nina Porzucki
“Despite his stance for an independent Ukraine, Shevchenko was a celebrated figure even during Soviet rule, praised for his fight against the classist society that existed under the tsars. His poetry was taught in school and children memorized poems by heart. Still, on March 9 of every year, KGB officers would monitor who laid flowers at his monuments all around Ukraine.”
“National hero Shevchenko fails to unite Ukrainians and Russians,” by Natalia Zinets and Timothy Heritage
“Two years ago, Putin announced with great fanfare after talks with Ukraine’s president that their two countries would celebrate the 200th anniversary of Shevchenko’s birth together.... As recently as December, Putin said preparations for the anniversary were in full swing and declared: ‘Taras Shevchenko was such a seer, who foresaw and bequeathed us so much.’... On Sunday, the anniversary passed, without any sign that Putin noticed.”
from The Independent (UK):
“Ukraine crisis: Bicentenary celebration of great poet Taras Shevchenko swamped by anger over Russian nationalism in Crimea,” by Kim Sengupta
“The rallies were to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the birth of Taras Shevchenko, the poet and polymath regarded as the founder of Ukrainian language and literature. But it was the swirling bitterness and anger over the rebirth of Crimea as a part of Russia which came violently to the fore on the day.”
To get a taste of why Shevchenko is so important as a voice for his people, you can read his poems in English at these online sites:
- A selection of Shevchenko’s poems translated by Michael M. Naydan from Ukrainian Literature, a Journal of Translations at the University of Toronto
- More Shevchenko poems in various English translations at the Web site of the Taras Shevchenko Museum in Toronto
- Four poems translated by Roman Turovsky-Savchuk at Polyhymnion
Previous Postings on the Poetry of Protest, Witness and Dissent:
Poems of Protest and Revolution (August 2013)
Tsering Woeser: The Poet’s Courage (March 2013)
Poetry Speaks To Politics (October 2012)
Poems in the Occupy Movement (November 2011)
Poetry As News, Poetry Shaping History (July 2011)
Poets for Change (June 2011)
Poetry in the Streets of Cairo (February 2011)
The Poet’s Warning To Tyrants (February 2011)
More Than Poems for the Gulf of Mexico (June 2010)
Poetry Rising Out of Iran (July 2009)
On the 5th Anniversary of the Iraq War (March 2008)