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I was deeply in love with poetry for most of my days, but I fell in love with the genre even more in college. In English composition, the assigned anthology introduced my hungry brain to the poems of Louise Erdrich, Audre Lorde, Cathy Song and Gary Soto, among others. The tissue paper pages took me into the corridors of my community college library looking for more poets in search of great language that could amaze me, amaze me, and make time go by.
Before the freshman year, most of the poetry I had come across was rhyming lines that adorned monotonous classroom walls and the work of dead whites. I didn’t know where to find contemporary poets and poems. Especially those I have been able to connect with in those mysterious and obvious ways that throw bibliophiles into total book-worship.
Whether you crave more poetry or just appreciate the pursuit of reading goals, these five poetry challenges can serve as a kick-start to create space for more poetry in your life. Plus, they can connect you with a community of poem readers, introduce you to new works and writers, and much more. You can start some Poetry Challenges today, and you can add the time-specific challenges to your calendar. Doodle hearts around them so you don’t forget them. (I did.)
1st poem per day
If you’re interested in a daily engagement, visit Poets.org to sign up for the ever-popular Poem-a-Day newsletter. Over 250,000 people have subscribed to receive a “new” poem every weekday and a “classic” poem every weekend day. A different guest editor directs the weekday publications each month. Recent editors include Fatimah Asghar, Anaïs Duplan and Rachel Eliza Griffiths.
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As a recipient of the Poem-a-Day newsletter, I appreciate starting my morning with poetry. Reading the choices after waking up keeps me in that dreamy headspace in front of the dishes and emails and errands and work. Daily writing illuminates the featured poem and a recording so you can read the poem, listen to the poem, or both. Not so long ago I read “I Was a Good Wife” by Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, the author of Beast Meridian, and my thoughts keep revolving around the breathtaking poem by r. erica doyle, Julis guest editor and author of proxy.
2nd National / Global Month of Poetry Writing (Na / GloPoWriMo)
If you prefer shorter engagements, National / Global Poetry Writing Month takes place in April each year during National Poetry Month. Poetry lovers write “30 poems in 30 days” for Na / GloPoWriMo. While I am sitting at my desk and waiting for the muses, I often reach for authors and pieces that move me: Cape Verdean Blues by Shauna Barbosa, Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz and The Year of Blue Water by Yanyi. Perhaps as you write poetry, you will read poetry as well.
A little history: thinking about NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), Maureen Thorson began writing a poem every day before April 18 and posting it on her blog. When others joined in, Thorson worked with designers to create the NaPoWriMo website. Throughout April, the daily specials promote a featured attendee, recommended read and write prompt. This year, in the readings, recorded or live events, Victoria Chang, Ross Gay, Joy Harjo and more were highlighted. If you fancy a poetry prompt, Day Seventeen of 2021 calls on poets to “write a poem that is about the moon or that is involved”.
3. The Rumpus National Poetry Month Project
In the announcement of “The Rumpus National Poetry Month Project 2021”, Marisa Siegel writes: “Every year, the Rumpus celebrates National Poetry Month with new poems by poets we admire. We introduce a different poet each day to illustrate a variety of voices and perspectives in contemporary poetry. ”This year’s poets include Joshua Jennifer Espinoza, Tarfia Faizullah and Omotara James. This festival has graced the Internet since 2010, and it is a delightful challenge to indulge in the content of previous years. Marianne Chan, Paige Lewis, Xandria Phillips, Jake Skeets, and Tracy K. Smith are among the earlier poets.
4. The Sealey Challenge
If you’re making months of commitments, check out The Sealey Challenge, named by Dante Micheaux for Nicole Sealey, the founder of the Challenge and author of Ordinary Beast and The Animal After Whom Other Animals Are Named. Since the opening in August 2017, the participants have read a volume of poetry or a full-length collection every day for 31 days. On social media, people share “Shelfie”[s]“Of book stacks, covers, poems and excerpts with the hashtags #TheSealeyChallenge and #SealeyChallenge.
The Challenge’s official website launched in July, focusing on “marginalized poets” and encouraging participants to buy their books from independent bookstores nearby. There is helpful advice for a successful August, along with breaking news and reading recommendations on adding to the TBR list like Chen Chen’s When I Grow Up I Want to Be a List of Additional Possibilities, Donika Kelly’s The Reunciations, and Ada Limón’s Bright Dead Things.
5. Create your own poetry challenge
Many poetry challenges exist because of others. Sealey September and #SeptWomenPoets are “offshoots”[s]“From The Sealey Challenge. In May the National / Global Poetry Revision Month follows Na / GloPoWriMo. So why not borrow something suitable for your current life from these exciting challenges and invite other poetry enthusiasts to join in?
If you find inspiration in others, please attribute it to the lovable people who came up with the challenges. And of course the poets who wrote the poems, who rearranged your universe, the publishers who helped bring the work to the readers’ world, the translators who introduced the work into another language, the local one Bookstore whose booksellers have hand-sold you the collection I’m obsessed with your library to store books of poetry, and so on and on.
Whether you’re new to poetry or a long-time fan, I’ll keep my fingers crossed for you that these poetry challenges will make you – like me – peek into your head or create a deeper connection with the genre. At the very least, I hope it makes you want poetry to be a priority in your reading life. If poetry is your thing, you can find some helpful resources including 50 Must-Read Best Poetry Books and Where To Find Free Poetry Online.