You’ve probably noticed that it’s April and perhaps even that it’s National Poetry Month. I like poetry. It does different things to my brain than fiction. I like that it makes me slow down and pay even closer attention to the words, the space on the page. Meanings. I think that is why it can be so close to flash fiction. It wants you, for a moment, nothing longer. And good poetry doesn’t need much time to embed itself.
I’d actually forgotten that National Poetry Month was coming up, though it must have been somewhere in my mind because for the last week I’ve really wanted to get back into writing poetry. As a writer, I started off as a poet. Teenage me was vaguely into the DC women’s spoken word scene in the early 2000s and, once a month, I would go to Mothertongue at the Black Cat on 14th St NW. When it was active, Mothertongue was a really special event to be at (as well as a see-and-be-seen sort of place). I even wrote my 110+ page anthropology thesis on the queer/lesbian community it fostered. The cover fee supported women’s and LGBTQ organizations, and it was held at a bar, not a coffee shop, which I think helped the networking (both personal and career-oriented). The readings, amazing and otherwise, were from locals and others sharing messages of anger, resistance, power, queer desire, and love. I was lucky to see Alix Olson perform. And I regret being too shy to only ever listen, not read. Since about 2012 or so, those involved have found other ways of re-organizing awareness and charitable support for their causes (and hopefully other ways to express themselves creatively–and find each other. I can’t help but notice that the whole area near and around Dupont Circle has become significantly less “gay” and unrecognizable from what it was when I was in my twenties, surely even more so for anyone older than me).
There are too many incredible poets out there to list, but I am a fan of Dorothy Parker, Audre Lorde, Louise Glück, Nikki Giovanni, Sandra Cisneros, and Sylvia Path–none of which should surprise anyone who knows me, and, yes, they all happen to be women with something to say however loudly or quietly. This is also what I love about poetry. Its sharp prongs. Its staining condensation. Spoken word and poetry were my own first feminist acts of communication. They were a way for me to understand myself and the world without having to worry about story. My poetry came in bursts from high school until about age 25 (when I got into writing my novel). Until yesterday, I’d only written three or four poems since. But the world is changing again, as am I and my understandings of it. For this month, I’ve decided to read a handful of poems every day, write one daily, and see where they take me.