Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when publishers, booksellers, literary organizations, libraries, schools and poets around the country come together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of businesses and non-profit organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events.
As a practicing poet who writes from a decidedly Christian perspective, I recognize a spiritual connection with poetry and would like to share comments from a radio broadcast “Poetry and Praise” which I hosted more than a dozen years ago:
Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the famous English Romantic poet, defined this literary art form as the “best words in their best order.” Poetry is an expression of the heart. As Longfellow said, “Look into thine heart and write.” Another poet said, “When you have something special you want to say, poetry helps you say it in a special way.” Certain qualities make this literary expression called poetry “special.” Poetry generally has rhythm or meter, sometimes in a specific recurring metrical pattern but not always, as with free verse. Poetry can also have rhyme but then again, not always. As the late Roger Miller once stated:
Roses are red, Violets are blue.
Some poems rhyme and some poems don’t.
Finally poetry has meaning or significance and a remarkable ability to evoke a mood or attitude, using figurative language to paint unforgettable mind pictures. The Roman poet Horace stated that “The purpose of literature is to instruct the mind and delight the spirit.” Robert Frost said, “Poetry begins in delight and ends with wisdom.” Poetry causes you to think and to remember what you didn’t know you knew.
Most poetry is relatively short: a compact unit of lines that reach deep into the heart. Whether the words of the Psalmist who speaks, “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. . .” or the line from the classic love sonnet from Shakespeare, “Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” or the powerful imagery of James Weldon Johnson’s “The Creation” or Dr. Maya Angelou’s “Phenomenal Woman” or the closing lines of “The Road Not Taken” by Robert Frost or lines from your favorite poem, poetry has remarkable power to touch the heart and soul in an unforgettable way, which we celebrate, especially during the month of April.
I encourage each of our readers to join me in the celebration of poetry throughout this month: write a poem, learn a new poem by heart—recite a poem and share it with a friend. Why not check out a book of poetry; make a new friend with a poet whose work you enjoy or someone whom you’ve heard about. Do something poetic that you’ve never done and celebrate God’s goodness in some way involving poetry.
As born-again believers, Christians are also said to be new creations in Christ, and we praise God for having given us all things richly to enjoy. Indeed, Ephesians 2:10 declares that “. . . we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.” The word “workmanship” is translated from the Greek word poiema, which means masterpiece, a glorious creation, a centerpiece of attention, as the French would say, le piece de resistance, or showpiece. Of course, the Greek word poiema is transliterated into the English word poem, which in the minds of many people is always a “masterpiece” or glorious creation. So that the people of God represent the real poetry of life, for which we praise God. Accordingly, we should not just wait until April to extol the beauty of poetry, but recognize and celebrate this cherished literary form every day. Make every day a
Good News Day
This is the day the LORD has made;
we will rejoice and be glad in it.
It’s a good news day
no blues day
no way to lose
What a good news day
It’s a great day
I can’t wait day
lift your voice
Good God, a good news day
It’s a payday
goin my way day
no nay–all yea
what you say
Such a good news day
It’s a live it up day
overflowin cup day
It’s a bright and bubbly
Show-nuff good news day
Take a look at and listen to this video promotion of National Poetry Month from Museum of the Bible, showing the use of Hebrew poetry in the Old Testament: