Kate’s poetry challenge

Kate has an intriguing challenge for April: post something critical about poetry once during the course of the month. She notes that while she often sees poems on book blogs, she doesn’t as often see writing about poetry, and so wants to challenge herself and others to do some critical — meaning analytical — writing about the genre.

I’m up for that, I think. Over the last couple years I’ve taken to reading poetry more often than I did before and I’ve loved it; I’ve discovered some new (meaning new to me) authors such as Jane Kenyon and Mary Oliver, and I’ve reread some old favorites, like Keats. Over the last couple months I’ve been reading one particular poem, Paradise Lost, but I decided early on that I wasn’t going to post about it, so I haven’t mentioned it. All I’ll say about that experience is that I loved the poem and am in awe of it. Kate writes about feeling uncertainty when it comes to voicing an opinion about poetry, and this is exactly what I felt when faced with Milton’s poem. I didn’t want to challenge myself to write about the poem; instead I preferred simply to enjoy it. (And I decided to leave the insightful writing to Imani, who has a great series of posts about Paradise Lost).

But now perhaps it’s time to start writing about poetry again. I’m also in the mood to read more more contemporary poetry — meaning 20th or 21st century poetry, as opposed to works from earlier centuries. I’ve been considering looking into my copy of Wallace Stevens’s Collected Works, or I might take a look at what my local bookstore has and see if something strikes me. I can also write about some of the poems I will be teaching in my classes; I’m about to enter the poetry section of my Introduction to Literature class, and we read poetry regularly in my British Literature class. There will be lots of poems to choose from.

If this interests you, do check Kate’s site out, as she will be offering prizes for participants. I’m hoping to learn about some new poets from everyone who takes part.


Filed under Books, Poetry

12 responses to “Kate’s poetry challenge

  1. I admire people who read poetry. I’ve been noticing a lot of people lately posting poems, and I never quite know what to say about them. I feel ill equipped to discuss poetry, because I’ve never really studied it. I think I am making it all harder than perhaps it is? Or maybe not–some poetry seems so very full of allusions that I know I don’t know enough about a particular period to appreciate what I’m reading. I’m not sure I’ll take part in Kate’s challenge, though I’d like to try and read some poems this month for National Poetry Month. I’ll definitely look for what others have to say about it. This might be a good way to learn more about it, if she’s looking for analytical posts!


  2. Hmmm… That is a challenge indeed. I don’t read enough poetry — just my favourite poets/poems over and over.


  3. In the last few years, my poetry reading has become less frequent, so I welcome the challenge as a way to renew that love. Like Orpheus, I do read my favorites over and over, but checking other people’s entries will be a fun way to discover new poets/poems.


  4. I love reading poetry, but as everyone has mentioned, I feel ill-equipped to critique it. I’ll be posting a poem a day this month, as I did last year for National Poetry Month, just because it’s fun. Not sure I’ll be posting anything analytical — I’m not sure I feel confident about doing that. But, who knows, now that Kate has put this into circulation it’s going to be percolating. I will see…


  5. I think I’ve avoided writing about poetry for much the same reason as Kate. I don’t feel qualified. There’s just something about poetry that can be intimidating. I’m not always sure I ‘get it.’ I don’t really know why poetry should be any different than other genres of writing, but it seems to be for many people.


  6. I am definitely going to participate in this challenge even though, like so many others seem to be saying, commenting on poetry publicly is a bit out of my comfort zone. But I love poetry! It speaks to me; it helps me think through puzzling things; its spareness and surprising juxtapositions throw things into relief that I might have never seen otherwise. And so, despite trepidation, this month I will honor poetry with a couple of posts about it.

    Paradise Lost. My! I treasure it. And I wouldn’t write about it either…except to say this. Read it out loud. Heaven, indeed.


  7. Thanks for the nice mention, Dorothy. 🙂 I used to feel the same as others mentioned here (and still do, to some extent, depending on the poem) but I started make my blog in an effort to become a better reader and I love poetry so I had to wrestle with it somehow. I still don’t think I have the vocabulary for it. Epic poems like Milton are easier in that there’s a lot of meaty themes one can discuss for hours on end without once addressing form or style which are harder to articulate for me.

    Contemporary poems? Fuhgeddaboutit.


  8. I love reading poetry yet I find that I don’t reach for a book of poems often enough. And, while I do enjoy posting poetry and have take a couple of classes on writing poems and such, I still find it very hard to analyze a poem. This is a great challenge Kate’s come up with but I don’t know if I’m up for this one.


  9. Of course I posted about Adrienne Rich in March and now I don’t know if I can manage to finish Atwood in April. I’ll try though because it’s a great challenge. Kudos to Kate or thinking of it.


  10. Hmmm…perhaps the fact I was just compelled to buy two new books of poetry was because this challenge was on the horizon. I read lots of poetry (A. A. Milne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Edward Lear, etc.) when I was a child, but had it ruined for me in high school and college, and have only recently begun exploring it again. I’ve been enjoying it much more than I thought I would.


  11. Danielle — I don’t think writing about poetry requires special knowledge or training; yes, it can help, of course, but all it really takes is the willingness to describe your impressions honestly! You don’t have to use special vocabulary to write about it, after all, although it can help. Do think about participating!

    Dark Orpheus — it must be a pleasure to read the same poems over and over — you must have them nearly or completely memorized.

    Jenclair — yes, I’m looking forward to learning lots of new stuff too!

    Melanie — oh, give it a try! It’s very cool to be posting a poem every day … that will really make you focus on the genre for a while.

    Lisa — it does seem to be a very different genre for many people, but I think it doesn’t have to seem so foreign. I think people are afraid of missing what’s “really” going on and feeling foolish because of it — I suppose writing about poetry is risky. But it seems like a worthwhile risk!

    Deborah — I read PL out loud on occasion, not all the time, but when I did, it WAS wonderful! And I’m glad you are participating in the challenge — the more I think of it the better an exercise it seems to be.

    Imani — yes, one must simply jump in, and I think it’s cool that you’re doing it. Surely it gets a lot easier over time and you learn more vocab as you go along?

    Iliana — I wish I reached for poetry more often too; I’m getting better though! I think it takes a while to develop the habit.

    Stefanie — or you can post on individual poems along the way (or one individual poem?)

    Emily — I’m not surprised you’ve come to enjoy it once again; even though I teach poetry, I can see that reading it outside of school might be preferable!


  12. Well, the epic stuff gets easier. I don’t know that I develop any *new* vocabulary unless I go out and read some lit crit – type books.


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