National Poetry Month: April 2022
With Spring in the air and crocuses blooming, this time of year brings words to the forefront. The League of Canadian Poets dubbed intimacy as the theme for National Poetry Month this April.
Celebrated poets like Chad Norman, Nathaniel G Moore and Sue Goyette share their musings on how intimacy pertains to their poetry and why a month dedicated to this literary art form is essential.
Chad Norman is going on 40 years of writing poetry, has 17 books of poems published and his writing appears in magazines all over the world. He says that his poetry would not exist without intimacy. The connection between poetry and intimacy helps make space for him to be in an open and vulnerable place when he writes.
In his poetry, this month’s theme arrives in a form of personal intimacy, where something: like an idea, observation or thought, enters his space and he creates a relationship with it. That ‘thing’ then becomes a muse. He says intimacy is involved in the creation and the acceptance of the poet’s Muse that has come. And whenever he finishes writing a poem, he is always sure to thank the muse that inspired the work.
“Without it, I probably wouldn’t be writing at all, I probably wouldn’t write a word.”
Norman further explains how he thinks that highlighting intimacy as the theme for Poetry Month this year has done a lot for the word intimacy itself. He says it’s expanded the definition beyond the box it’s been put in.
“I’ve never defined it as something just on its own. I think sometimes people get into a mindset where intimacy is just one thing, it’s just one happening or it’s just with one individual. I’ve never really looked at it like that. I see it as far larger and full of far more possibilities.”
Poetry is a place of sanity for Norman. It has always been the respite, “the room you can go in and close the door,” he says.
“And it’s always been a place where there’s excitement because you’re getting a chance to say something, you’re getting a chance to speak.”
Norman says National Poetry Month is wonderful. “It keeps us on the map.” He would love to see a whole season dedicated to poetry, with all the events and new poetry collections launched during this time of year.
Nathaniel G Moore is an author, poet, literary publicist and the owner of moorehype, a book publicity company. Moore says intimacy is a loaded word he associates with adult life, sex and love. Although those are the first things that come to mind, he also associates it with trauma and how that manifests to affect someone’s intimacy.
“I can’t write anything authentic; poetry or otherwise, unless I have an intimate relationship with the subject,” says Moore.
Speaking as a poet and a publisher, he says that Poetry Month is all about wanting people to find poetry, and for people to look at the world in a poetic way.
“You might see something while you’re out on a walk and it might be something out of place, but if you look at it long enough, you can come up with a bit of a narrative for it or your own interpretation… It might be something that comes out of this moment you have where a dog is hopping on one leg or something happens when you’re watching the sun hit something a certain way,” says Moore.
“There’s poetry all around and poetry has always been around. It’s part of our culture. It’s how we tell stories. It’s how we express ourselves.”
As a publicist, Moore says that poetry month is an important part of the seasonal nature of publishing. Spring and Fall are the two major seasons for new books and poetry collections. He says that publishers generally look to publish more poetry in April as it provides great platforms during Poetry Month that help promote poetry.
“The idea is to get excited about it [poetry].”
As a poet, Moore has always leaned on poetry to interpret the chaos. He says that the essence of pure emotion in poetry has always resonated with him.
“For me, it’s always been this secret little thing I can hear in my head. It’s like its own little language,” says Moore. “It’s second nature to me, it’s like wearing my favourite shirt, I’m never going to throw it out.”
Moore also highlights how poetry is increasingly accessible. There are various avenues to find poetry, like buying new collections in bookstores or by exploring poetry in its varying forms for free at local libraries and through online sources.
Moore is currently reading Black Matters by Afua Cooper and Wilfried Raussert. A poem he highlights from this collection of poems and photographs is “What do you do with the hurt?” He says it’s an intimate poem about confronting and accepting the pain life brings and how to exorcise it.
Sue Goyette, award-winning poet and Halifax’s eighth poet laureate in 2020, says intimacy is the silence in a poem. It’s “where the reader participates with the poem’s content and how they’re relating to it. And in that way, there is an intimate connection with the poet, the poem and the reader.”
“The intimacy is in the interchange between the poem and the reader, that’s (what) I think about when I’m writing the poem.”
Goyette started writing poetry to help her navigate through the turbulence of adolescence. She views poetry as “an experiential capsule of meaning making and exchange.” To navigate the powerful work, she says that you have to think, feel and be open and willing to risk not knowing.
“It introduces a really valid and radical vulnerability,” she says.
Poetry “acts as a recharging site for me,” says Goyette. “It’s not really about how I’m thinking, because it’s an experiment. If I put two words together and they combust in their own way, then I’m being invited as a poet to investigate what they’re combusting. To follow the smoke of them and to keep blowing on the little fire that’s started.”
Goyette says poetry is punk in the way that it has no rules. Language is a powerful tool that you can frame and shift to say whatever you need to, and the words you choose to do so are important and formative to the poem itself and the narrative you create.
She, like Norman and Moore, acknowledges how poetry has influenced and shaped human history. Goyette sees it as the genre that humans turn to “in order to re-animate or re-imagine our humanity. It’s where we bring our feelings, our celebrations, our grief and all the beguiling things in our day-to-day.”
“It’s a real headquarters for the human experience on the planet.”
Goyette thinks that the more time poetry can spend in the “public domain” and made available and accessible, the more it is likely to remind people or renew their understanding of why poetry is so important.
“Poetry is the one place where, when I read a poem, I can feel realigned and recharged.” She says that this art form “is really good company, especially right now.”
To explore the work of these poet’s, check out their recent poetry collections:
Sue Goyette – Solstice 2020: An Archive – “Every morning for the first 21 days of the locked-down and uncertain month of December 2020, Sue Goyette wrote a new poem to be published in Halifax’s The Coast that afternoon. Goyette’s skillful use of poetry’s artful unruliness—of its facility for reconciling our emotional and imaginative lives with occurrences in the everyday world—results in poems that illuminate a dark moment, contributing to ‘the work of imagining a way forward so there’s a bowl for everyone.'”
Chad Norman – Selected and New Poems. — “In Selected & New Poems, Chad Norman hopes readers find an entrance into his poems. Over the years, both the page and the performance have provided doors without locks, just handles that need to be turned, and pushed upon, finding the poem no more than a room to be entered, a room to be found both comfortable and easily exited.” Norman has another poetry collection to come in May 2022.
Nathaniel G Moore — Constrictor — “Constrictor piles shock on top of shock until all one can feel is the places where ones nerves are twitching liked downed Hydro wires. A long poem outlining the trauma and resolution of teenage sexual abuse acts as the centre piece for a collection which examines the chaotic imbalance of power dynamics.”
If you’re feeling drawn to read more poetry this month, or any month for that matter, the links below provide great resources to get you started.
The League of Canadian Poets – Poetry Pause
American Poetry Foundation – Poem of the day