April of 2021 is National Poetry Month, and we are almost to its very end! This poses an interesting challenge for those among us who are poets: while the rest of the world has been celebrating the works of poets they admire, writers of poetry have been girding themselves rise to the challenge of becoming the wordsmiths they wish to be. This challenge is not perhaps specific to April––but it is pushed to the front burner, so to speak. And during the COVID-19 pandemic, everything is just that little bit more difficult.
So what is a poet to do in a month set aside for celebrating poets and what they do?
– Set yourself a writing challenge.
The first thing to do, as a person dedicated to a specific craft and art form, is to continue working to improve your skill set. And as one of my past creative writing instructors used to say, “You will never be so good at this that you can afford to stop practicing.” (Which might explain why she gave me her copy of Baking Illustrated, now that I come to think of it.) Regardless, I’m grateful to her for never letting up, never allowing me to relax into the assumption that I’d learned all I was going to learn and raised the bar as high as it would go. That said, the old adage “Practice Makes Perfect” is … sometimes … wrong. To strive for perfection is to set ourselves up for failure every time, but to strive for improvement–to challenge ourselves to get better–will bear endless fruit. So set yourself a writing challenge, one that fits your routine and schedule and needs, and use it as an opportunity to hone your form.
– Go digital.
Many of my friends who went on to be poets–and there are many–have an aversion to social media. I’m not entirely sure why there’s more of this tendency among my poet friends than among my friends who went on to write prose and nonfiction, and I know that the authors I know are not a representative statistical sample of all writers everywhere, but the tendency seems common. It might have something to do with the intimate nature of poetry. After all, writing poetry is, like much personal writing, a deeply private act that aims to generate a public–or semi-public–product. So this April, I’d like to challenge you to go digital. Not just as a person, but as a writer. Experiment with a variety of social media options–Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok, and more … and do so as a poet.
Find your readers where they live, and meet them there.
– Create a following.
But you know, don’t find them where they live in a creepy way like in crime fiction television shows. Dig into it like a pro: Once you’re on social media, take advantage of the opportunity to post snippets of your work, updates from behind the scenes as you write, and generally work to create the cult of personality that surrounds books with that oh-so-important “buzz” factor. This will help generate interest in your book, once you’re ready to publish … and will form a rock-solid foundation for your marketing strategy.
If you’re not comfortable projecting yourself as a poet into the digital sphere, that’s okay. There are reasons for those feelings, for reticence in engaging in deliberate self-exposure at a time when it already seems like everyone is already up in everyone else’s business. I simply hope, in my own small way, to encourage you with this reassurance: your work deserves to be read, and admired. You are a poet, even if you haven’t yet published your book of poetry. You will find a way to be heard, because that’s just the nature of being a poet, after all. You’ll get there, in your own time, and when you’re ready. Most of all, I want you to know that you have a community here who supports you all the way, whether it’s National Poetry Month … or not!
Thinking of you always. ♣︎