March 28, 2022

National Poetry Month 2022

National Poetry Month began in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a reminder that poets have an integral role to play in our culture, and that poetry matters. 

It has become the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K–12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, families, and—of course—poets, marking poetry's important place in our lives. 

There are activities, initiatives, and resources so that anyone can join the celebration. For example, order a free 2022 National Poetry Month poster (shown above) and find online poetry readings and events on their Poetry Near You calendar.

See all the possibilities at

The 2022 poster was designed by eleventh grader Lara L. from Saunders Trades and Technical High School in Yonkers, New York, who was the winner of the 2022 National Poetry Month Poster Contest, and features a line by 2021 Presidential Inaugural Poet and 2017 National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman.

Visit our website at

March 21, 2022

Is the Artist's Way the Poet's Way?

One book on creativity that has been a regular best-selling title for three decades is The Artist's Way.

The author, Julia Cameron, is an active artist and now the author of more than thirty books of fiction and nonfiction. But she is certainly best known for her books on the creative process, especially The Artist's Way, which started her in a different creative direction herself.

It has sold more than 4 million copies since its publication in 1992. Cameron was in the prior decades part of the "New Journalism" at the Washington Post and Rolling Stone. She was briefly married to Martin Scorsese, with whom she has a daughter, Domenica, but she was not a celebrity.

The book is an eclectic blend of affirmations, inspirational quotes, fill-in-the-blank lists and creative "tasks" for prompts. Cameron is a believer that everyone has creativity in them. This egalitarian view of creativity no doubt is part of the book's appeal.

Today, many of her techniques and suggestions probably seem less original because they have been adopted and adapted by other people and groups. 

Cameron has herself gone beyond the original book with additional publications and has offered 12-week creativity courses which are outlined in the book. The two main goals of the book and program are to break through artistic blocks and foster confidence in your abilities.

The title's "artist" suggests visual art but her examples come from different artists and authors. I wonder how many poets have read the book and found the techniques useful in their writing. If you are someone who has used Cameron's book in your writing life, post a comment below.

"The Artist's Way Starter Kit" is Cameron's two most commonly used tools: The Artist's Way and The Artist's Way Morning Pages Journal. You can do your own twelve-week program, though having a group for support would probably make the work more meaningful. I always found that writing in a group improved my writing, if only because I wanted to please the member with my work.

Certainly, the journaling is well-suited to the writer. Cameron says she has shelves full of Morning Pages journals because it is not that once to do the 12 weeks you are done.

When I first encountered The Artist's Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity a few years after it was was published, I was attracted to the word "spiritual." I always suspected that there was a strong spiritual element in my creative life but I had not explored it in any formal way. But my "spiritual" is not religious while Cameron does make a connection between artistic creativity and a spiritual connection with God. When I used her book with a group of writers, several people didn't like that element of her process.

Julia Cameron keeps going and now has an online course and artists' community led by her at 

Visit our website at

March 10, 2022

How to Write a Poem?

I got an email from Grammarly (the online proofreading app) with a link to a post on their blog titled "How to Write a Poem: A Step-by-Step Guide" and - though I immediately question that title - I had to look.

What does it tell us?

Poems don’t have to rhyme;
They don’t have to fit any specific format;
They don’t have to use any specific vocabulary or be about any specific topic.
It’s okay to break grammatical rules when doing so helps you express yourself.

Okay, that sounds freeing and it sounds quite basic, but is there anything that they are required to do?

Use words artistically by employing figurative language. (Easier said than done.)
The form is as important as the function. (Easier said than to be explained.)
Show. Don’t tell. (Basic elementary school writing class advice.)
The goal is to provoke an emotion in the reader.
Less can be more. (More can also be more.)

I am being tough on this advice. That's because after having taught writing of all types including poetry for some decades I would not want to have to write  on "How to Write a Poem."

As with other kinds of literature, poets use literary devices. So in the "how to" class, you need to learn about figurative language. You need to learn about the elements that are more unique to poetry, such as sound, rhythm, rhyme, and the many formats that poems can take. As the blog post pointed out, "The first three of these are apparent when you hear poetry read aloud. The last is most obvious when you read poetry."

What is most useful in the blog post is some sample poems used to illustrate a literary device or form. I think the best way to teach how to write a poem is to read many kinds of poems and then start writing.  

"Often, poets use literary devices in conjunction with other poetic elements. One famous example of a poem that layers multiple literary devices is the very short poem by Margaret Atwood “[you fit into me].”

you fit into me
like a hook into an eye

a fish hook
an open eye

In the first stanza, Atwood uses a simile, a type of figurative language, to create an initially pleasant image: a hook and eye closure, a small metal hook that neatly fits into an appropriately sized metal loop to fasten clothing. Then the second stanza juxtaposes this with a jarring image: a fish hook plunged into an eyeball. These images together, formatted as two stark sections separated by a break, express the poem’s uncomfortable, visceral theme." 

Visit our website at

March 3, 2022

Prompt: Lessons

When the psychiatrist gives you the word association test, what comes to mind when she says "lesson"? School is probably considered a normal answer since we get so many lessons in classrooms. There are certainly many formal lessons in life in school, but we spend more time outside of school, so the number of lessons there is certainly much greater.

I found in a search a surprising number of poems about lessons. I found a "Dancing Lesson," "History Lessons," and a "Driving Lesson." 

For this month's prompt, we offer as a model "Lessons from a Mirror" by Thylias Moss ( from Wannabe Hoochie Mama Gallery of Realities’ Red Dress Code: New & Selected Poems)

Snow White was nude at her wedding, she’s so white
the gown seemed to disappear when she put it on.

Put me beside her and the proximity is good
for a study of chiaroscuro, not much else...

When you look at me,
know that more than white is missing.

Moss' lesson is learned by looking at herself - perhaps literally in a mirror. Some lessons have a teacher. Some lessons are presented and learned; some lessons are presented and not learned. As someone who taught for four decades, I know the latter to be very true.

For our next issue, we are looking for poems about a variety of lessons - formal, informal, in school, in life, learned, and ignored.

Visit our website at