The amount of poetry I’m writing ebbs and flows depending on what assignments I have for other types of writing—the kinds of writing I do to earn my share of the family budget. But whether I’m spending 5 minutes writing poetry each day (see my Poetry Diary column) or several hours writing it (a heavenly thought, but a rare reality), I do try to keep up one basic habit.
I read five poems every day.
When I get up in the morning, I write my morning pages and do my morning routine. But the very next thing I do, before I get my head cluttered with too many other thoughts, is find my five poems to read. They get me ready for the day. They give me something to think about. They wake me up. They give me ideas for my own writing. And they show me how to live my life.
Sometimes they’re poems for adults. Other times they’re poems for kids or teens. As I write this, I’m working my way through a William Stafford collection. Last week, it was Birds on a Wire, by J. Patrick Lewis and Paul B. Janeczko.
Sometimes I start a book and read it all the way through. Other times, I barely have time to read my five poems before diving into the lengthy to-do list for that day.
I have very few rules for my five poems.
1. Read the poems out loud. Whenever possible, I read the poems out loud, even if I have to whisper (if the house is asleep). Poetry wants to be heard, and I try to oblige.
2. Read them in one sitting. I might read more poems throughout the day, but I try to do my daily 5 all in one sweep. Otherwise, I worry that I’ll forget about them or not find time to come back to them.
3. Don’t feel guilty if a poem does nothing for me. The goal of my daily reading is to expose myself to many poems. I will not like them all. I accept that, and if I’m halfway through a poem and am hating it, I just move on. Poetry should never be punishment!
Where do I find my poems? I usually have all sorts of poetry collections sitting on my desk, waiting to be read, and I sometimes read from one of them. But one way I really like to do my daily 5 is by using Poetry Friday.
In the kidlitosphere, Poetry Friday happens every Friday when bloggers participate by posting poems or poetry book reviews or other poetry-related posts. One blogger hosts Poetry Friday every week, and that blogger does a round-up, so that there’s a list of all the Poetry Friday posts.
There are often many more than 25 links, so I have plenty for the coming week. On Monday morning, I might open up the Poetry Friday Roundup from the previous week and click on the first 5 links. And each day I check out the next 5 (and maybe more, if I have time).
So, poetry isn’t just for Fridays! Read 5 poems (or whatever number works for you) every day and make poetry a constant part of your life.