We’re barely two weeks into 2015, which means that most of us are still committed to following through on any New Year’s resolutions we made, no matter how Sisyphean they are starting to appear. While our wills remain strong, I propose adding an enjoyable resolution to our lists—let’s all try to read a poem a day for the entire year!
While this may seem a daunting task to many people, there are several resources that make it extremely easy to locate and read (or listen to) a poem a day.
One daily poem resource that everyone, but particularly high school students, should consider is the Library’s own Poetry 180 Project . Poetry 180 was created by former Poet Laureate Billy Collins in 2001 as a way to introduce American high school students to poetry. The Poetry 180 website presents students with a new poem for each of the 180 days of the school year. The poems selected by Collins are meant to be accessible, and not subject to classroom analysis. As Collins implies in his own contribution to Poetry 180, “Introduction to Poetry,” students’ instructor-driven impulse to analyze a poem is the quickest way to encourage children and young adults to dislike poetry:
. . . all they want to do
is tie the poem to a chair with rope
and torture a confession out of it.
They begin beating it with a hose
to find out what it really means.
In a recent interview with Stay Thirsty Magazine, Billy Collins was asked what he considered his greatest achievement, and how he’d like to be remembered in 50 to 100 years. Instead of citing his body of award-winning poetry, he replied:
…. I suppose Poetry 180, the program I put together for high school students, has been gratifying, largely because I hear from scores of teachers that it actually works. Students hear these clear, imaginative, contemporary poems and it changes their attitude toward poetry. They put down their poetry-deflector shields and let the poems come in.
One of the most useful features of Poetry 180 is that you can subscribe to receive Poetry 180 poems through email or RSS. A different poem is sent out each weekday during the course of a typical American high school year (early September to mid-June). Whether you’re a student, teacher, or otherwise determined reader, subscribing to Poetry 180 will take you a long way toward meeting your poem-a-day resolution.
Since Poetry 180 is not Poetry 365, you’ll need to supplement Poetry 180 with another resource to reach your goal of reading a poem a day for the entire year. One option for you to consider is the Academy of American Poets‘ Poem-a-Day service. The Academy of American Poets is among the largest poetry organizations in the United States, and you can sign up for its daily poem service, which launched in April 2006, to be emailed “original, previously unpublished poems by our country’s most talented poets throughout the week and classic poems on the weekends.”
Like the Academy of American Poets, the Poetry Foundation is another major U.S. poetry organization that offers a Poem a Day service. In fact, it offers two: its standard Poem of the Day service emails subscribers a new print poem each day, while its Audio Poem of the Day service emails subscribers downloadable recordings of “great classic and contemporary poems read by poets and actors.”
Much like committing to a daily workout routine, committing to read a poem a day—especially if it’s been a long time since you’ve read any poems–may prove difficult at first, and you may be tempted to quit. The longer you stick with it, however, the easier and more pleasurable it will (I hope!) become. Before long you may find yourself reading multiple poems each day as you flex your newfound poetic muscles, and may even experience the poetic equivalent of a runner’s high.
Getting high on poetry–now that’s a worthy New Year’s goal!