Blog Teaching Writing

Listening for the Poetry in Each Other


Elyse Eidman-Aadahl shares an invitation to participate in National Poetry Month along with a few ideas to get started with. Although originally posted during the COVID pandemic, the information and invitation are still relevant. Originally published on April 1, 2020

I live in the Bay Area, one of the first areas in the US to shelter-in-place. The first weeks were marked by a gray misty rain, so staying inside felt strangely normal. But then came the first dry day. My husband and I went out on our deck and looked across the San Francisco Bay toward the hills of Marin where the fog comes off the ocean.

My decidedly non-literary husband breathed deeply and said: “The fog comes on little cat feet.”

And so it does.

How many Americans across how many elementary school classrooms learned that fog comes on little cat feet? How many of us then wrapped our lips around the word ‘metaphor’? How many were silent and charmed by our teacher whisper-reading Carl Sandburg’s tiny poem:

The fog comes
on little cat feet.

It sits looking
over harbor and city
on silent haunches
and then moves on.

A minute later, playing poet ourselves, we agreed that day’s fog was more of a snow leopard, having seen one the night before on Tiger King.

Poetry All Around Us

How is it the human heart and mind can hold so fast to these bits of language that poetry gives us? Our earliest poetry, drawn from the spoken word mixed with music, with rhythm and rhyme, boiled down to its essence, is still with us. Centuries later we still conjure up the rosy-fingered dawn of the Odysseyand the poetry of our sacred texts. Poetic language travels, challenges, delights, and comforts as demonstrated by those who have shared how during this health emergency they Shelter In Poems.

But comforting too is the knowledge that poetry is all around us; it comes from us all the time, though most of the time we aren’t listening. This is a good moment to listen to each other.

Since 1996, the Academy of American Poets has marked April as National Poetry Month, now one of the largest literary celebrations in the world. Throughout the month, partners typically share poetry, hold events, and connect on social media through the hashtag #NationalPoetryMonth. The month concludes on April 30 with Poem In Your Pocket Day, a day when we pick a favorite poem to carry in our pocket to share with others throughout the day.

This April, in particular, all of us in the National Writing Project network encourage you to find poems, read poems, and share poems all month. But we especially hope you, your friends and family will write poems, and NWP’s Write Now aims to help you do that.

National Poetry Month at Write Now

All this month, Write Now will post ideas and activities to get you started with creating and sharing poetry: fun activities, serious activities, silly activities, activities for children and adults — all kinds of activities. We invite you to hold onto your creations and “put them in your pocket.” In fact, our first activity is for you to make a pocket to keep your favorite poems.

Throughout the month of April, starting April 6, we will announce a new theme or challenge each week with activities to get you started and poetry to inspire your efforts. We will post a theme on Monday with a new activity on Tuesday and Friday. You can share your creations on social media all month with the hashtags #WriteNow #NWP #NationalPoetryMonth. Tag the National Writing Project on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram so that we can help others find what you post.

Then on April 30, we invite you to reach into your pockets and pull out all your favorites to share on Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Follow Along With Write Now

T.S. Elliot argued “April is the cruelest month,” and this April may be especially hard. But together we can buoy each other. Let’s play, share, and listen to each other through poetry. You can follow our publication Write Now here at Medium and through our monthly newsletter, follow NWP on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or follow the hashtag #WriteNow.

Let’s greet each other with full pockets on April 30.