Pen a Poem Today
April is Community College Month. It is also National Poetry Month.
You may not know this, but our community college has quite a few talented poets on campus. I read and hear their work often. At times it is the result of a one-week creative writing unit embedded in ENG 101 and ENG 102, but more often it comes from our ENG 207 creative writing students. They spend four full weeks on a rather extensive poetry reading and writing unit.
Poetry is for everyone. You may not think you’re a poet, but I guarantee given the right push and focus, you may surprise yourself.
Perhaps inspiration can be found in the many examples below, or in the five poems here, written and recorded by ACTC students.
(You can add your own work, if you like, to be a part of future episodes of the 5 Poems in 5 Minutes podcast. Email me - Jonathan.firstname.lastname@example.org - for more details.)
You could also celebrate National Poetry Month with the classic voice of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5L-kKxePGqA), or maybe Kentucky native George Ella Lyon, her Where I’m From poetry in tow (http://georgeellalyon.com/where.html), is more your style. Willa Cather’s ode to spring (read here by another Kentuckian, Silas House https://www.willacather.org/silas-house-reads-%E2%80%9Cfides-spes%E2%80%9D) completes this trio of poetic voices that ENG 207 students recently enjoyed.
Maybe you’d like to honor this month’s literary focus by way of penning your own poem. Below are five short poetry form definitions and examples to get you started.
1. Often inspired by nature, a haiku poem is a three line work. The first line contains five syllables. The second line is made up of seven syllables. The last line, five.
Beech Fork Haiku
An old gray canoe
Beech Fork sand between my toes
2. A Tanka poem is a Japanese work similar to a haiku, but with two additional lines to allow for a bit further development, detail. The syllable per line ratio is 5-7-5-7-7.
She sings soulfully
The tunes her mother taught her
She dances freely
The jig passed down by her dad
What once was breathes life again
3. The most common type of Acrostic poem is one in which the first letter of each line spells out a word.
Actors take their places.
Rare is the anticipation so great
On both ends.
Synergy between artist and audience
Technician and designer
In the moment, all, throughout the night.
Clapping ends the show with sighs of exhilaration and relief.
You can also try an Acrostic where the last letter, or even the middle letter, spells something out.
4. A Shadorma is a six line Spanish poem that does not rhyme and has a 3-5-3-3-7-5 syllable count per line.
Game time go
A church Pokestop
The night brings a Venonat
The day, a Pidgey
5. A Free Verse poem may be any length on any subject. It need not rhyme, though it can if you like. There are few rules with a free verse. Have fun with it.
Gusty midwinter winds blow surprisingly warm
Sudden sunshine opposing an oncoming storm
Downtown, plodding on asphalt, to campus green, dorm
Red Caboose cryptids provocatively dance
Gumbo Stop spices enticingly entrance
Haute Wick’s sweet floral scents tantalize, romance
Wooden benches are empty as all around rush
Little sound but for traffic and the wistful thrush
I sit to absorb it, meditate, and hush
Poetry is entertaining and expressive. Introspective and healing. Practice in poetry stresses word variety and increases vocabulary, as well. Best of all, it is fun. And with the stressors of Finals Week upcoming, you may find this kind of creative writing to be a calming, albeit temporary, escape.
See for yourself. Celebrate National Poetry Month and Community College Month by trying your hand at creating your own original poem on campus today.
A three-time First Among Peers Teaching Excellence Award winner, Jonathan Joy has taught at ACTC for 11 years. He currently serves as Associate Professor of English/Writing for the college. Writing credits include 50 plays, 150 children’s stories, and dozens of attempts at poetry. Joy’s Read Me A Bedtime Story column for the Ashland Beacon won a 2020 Kentucky Press Association award. The children’s stories therein are also featured on the Professor Theo's Mystery Lab podcast (ProfessorTheo.com). Joy lives in Huntington with his wife, son, and dog.