February 26, 2024

U.S. Poet Laureate Projects

Since the Poet Laureateship was created by an act of Congress in 1985, nearly half of the laureates have taken on a signature project to raise the national appreciation of poetry. The best of them have a life beyond their tenure and some of them have an online presence.

A good example is the American Life in Poetry project by Ted Kooser from 2004-2022 to create a space and a presence for poetry in American culture. American Life in Poetry provided newspapers and online periodicals with a free weekly column by Kooser that featured a poem from a contemporary American poet. The poems and columns remain archived online.

The Favorite Poem Project by Robert Pinsky was the first digital one I experienced. It is a way to celebrate, document, and encourage a public appreciation of poetry as well as acknowledge the role of poetry in the everyday lives of Americans. The project called for Americans to share their favorite poems with the nation.

Billy Collins' Poetry 180 was one I used in my classroom. It was his effort to make poetry an active part in the daily experience of American high school students, giving students a chance to read or listen to a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year. Two anthologies came from the project.

American Conversations: Celebrating Poems in Rural Communities was the 2018 project of Tracy K. Smith who visited rural communities around the country and gave away copies of her anthology, American Journal: Fifty Poems for Our Time, to spark conversations about the power of poetry.Living Nations, Living Words was created in 2020 by Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. It gathered a sampling of work by 47 contemporary Native poets from across the nation and features an interactive Story Map and a newly developed audio collection.

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February 16, 2024

Writing a Poem Is Like...

Kurt Vonnegut had written:

Writing a novel is like making a movie: All sorts of accidental things will happen after you’ve set up the cameras. So you get lucky. Something will happen at the edge of the set and perhaps you go with that. You come into it accidentally. You set the story in motion, and as you're watching this thing begin, all these opportunities will show up. So, in order to exploit one thing or another, you may have to do research. You may have to find out more about Chinese immigrants, or you may have to find out about Halley’s Comet, or whatever, where you didn't realize that you were going to have Chinese or Halley’s Comet in the story. So you do research on that, and it implies more, and the deeper you get into the story, the more it implies, the more suggestions it makes on the plot. Toward the end, the ending becomes inevitable.

If we can agree that it is true that writing a novel is like making a movie, does it also apply to writing a poem?

Accidental things happen while writing. Sometimes there is research. 

Your thoughts?

Follow this blog for all things poetry.
To see our past prompts and more than 300 issues,
visit our website at poetsonline.org

February 13, 2024

Love Poems for Valentine's Day

Did you forget to get your love a gift for tomorrow?

Need some poetic lines (or inspiration) for Valentine's Day? Try some classic and contemporary love poems ranging from "How Do I Love Thee?" by Elizabeth Barrett Browning

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways.
I love thee to the depth and breadth and height
My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight
For the ends of being and ideal grace...
to "How to Love" by January Gill O’Neil

After stepping into the world again,
there is that question of how to love,
how to bundle yourself against the frosted morning—
the crunch of icy grass underfoot, the scrape
of cold wipers along the windshield—
and convert time into distance...

February 4, 2024

Prompt: what you didn't know

After I reread Jon Loomis's poem "At the Lake House" (from The Mansion of Happiness), I thought I knew his name and a little searching turned up his poem, "Deer Hit" which I had read much earlier. That poem is about being 17 years old, driving drunk, and hitting a deer. I used it in a classroom lesson. I first read his poem "At the Lake House" on The Writers Almanac and had bookmarked it for a future prompt.

On first reading, I considered it a poem about betrayal, but when I read it a few more times it began to be a poem about what you don't know about people you think you know well. That is our prompt this month.

What have you discovered about someone close to you - parent, spouse, sibling, colleague, friend, neighbor - that you had not known? It might be a betrayal, a secret, something shameful, or something extraordinary. But more importantly, this revelation about them changed something in you.

Jon Loomis was born in 1959 in Athens, Ohio. He holds a BA in creative writing from Ohio University, and a MFA in poetry from the University of Virginia. where he studied under the poet Charles Wright. He is a professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. Vanitas Motel his first book of poetry, won the 1997 annual FIELD prize in poetry. His 2001 poetry collection is The Pleasure Principle. He is also the author of the three Frank Coffin mysteries set in Provincetown, Massachusetts.

The deadline for submissions for the next issue is Leap Day, February 29, 2024. Please refer to our submission guidelines, and look at our archive of 25 years of prompts and poems

Follow this blog for all things poetry.
To see our past prompts and more than 300 issues,
visit our website at poetsonline.org