“Do not go gentle into that good night.”
“I wandered lonely as a cloud.”
“This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.”
For a genre of literature that is supposedly dead, poetry provides some of the most quoted material in the history of quotes. Anybody with a westernized high school English education could say that the line “To be, or not to be, that is the question” comes from Hamlet, regardless of whether or not they actually read the play. Poetry has given us pickup lines to use on potential lovers, epigraphs in our favorite novels and profound social media bios. More likely than not have we quoted a famous poem to our friends in order to sound smart.
But the web of poetry that surrounds our lives is far more convoluted. We all probably know somebody who loves to write poetry and has written many poems, somebody who has dabbled in poetry and only occasionally writes, or somebody who has only written one poem that was required for a class assignment. We even listen to a modern form of poetry in the music of Kanye West, Jay Z, Drake or any other rapper. Poetry has affected us in a variety of ways, and as obvious as it sounds, the world simply would not be the same without it.
Despite the pervasiveness of poetry in our everyday lives, people continue to say that the genre is dead. Perhaps this is a call into the void from haters who would rather not be bothered by another line of poetry. Maybe it represents how inaccessible some people find poetry to be — understanding a poem
requires extra effort, to be sure. Regardless of the reason, saying that poetry is dead only perpetuates the mythology that it actually is dead.
This is why it is important that we recognize the significance of National Poetry Month. During the month of April, publishers, bookstores, art organizations and poetry aficionados seek to raise awareness of the
literary genre. There are more public poetry readings in April than any other month. Practicing poets like to visit college campuses and share their work — and yes, poets still do exist.
National Poetry Month provides us with ample opportunities to engage in the world of poetry, and because of the diversity of the genre, there really is something for everyone. There is traditional poetry from the days of yore, such as sonnets, villanelles and Wordsworthian lyric poems. There is experimental poetry that reinvents language and form, whether it be through seemingly haphazard line breaks or through carefully selected words. There is also
slam poetry that is usually written in contemporary, informal language and is performed in front of an audience — it doesn’t even have to be read! No matter one’s poetic tendencies or predilections, there is always some way to participate during National Poetry Month.
As college students, we exist at an intersection of arts culture. There are programs for visual art, writing, acting, music and dance on our campus alone. Because of this we are constantly exposed to
artistic accomplishments and advancements. However, students generally focus on more popular art forms such as music and visual art, and poetry gets disregarded somewhere in the process.
But this month we can do something about it. Pick up a full-length collection from a poet whose poetry was featured in a literature or humanities class. Go to a public poetry reading, open mic night or slam event. Write a haiku, a love poem, a nature poem or even a Shakespearean sonnet.
Let’s keep poetry alive.
The Nevada Sagebrush editorial board can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @TheSagebrush.