National Poetry Month: What They Won't Tell You

Cover Art: Love, Ghosts and Facial HairOkay, I figure that headline up there sent most everybody fleeing as fast as their mouses could carry them. So, for the one or two of you who are still with me, I'm going to tell you something that no one else will.

Here it is: Poetry is not good for you, or at least not good for you in the way that most people think it is.

The fact is poetry is bad for you.

Now I know what you're saying,This guy thinks I can't see through this reverse-psychology stuff.  Despite appearances, I'm not dumb enough to think you're dumb enough to fall for that.

I'm telling you the truth, poetry is bad for you. A poem is deep-fried language, all crunchy on the outside and gooey in the middle. It can be sugary or salty depending on your mood, but either way, poetry is greasy. It gets into youCover Art PoetSpeak and kind of rumbles around in there.  

Poetry is bad for you and this is why: It makes it hard to settle for answers like, "because that's the way it is." or "because that's the way we've always done it." Reading poetry sometimes gets you to question what you always thought you knew. Poetry just makes life harder, and nobody wants that, right?

Well, yes and no. Look, we all have a choice. We can go through life numb and dumb, taking whatever the world feels like giving us, or we can live it like we're on fire--live it like this is the only one we've got. That's the thing about poetry; it connects you with people from all parts of the world and from all of history who have chosen the second way, the harder way.

There's a whole lot of stuff out there. Some you'll like; some you'll hate. Keep looking 'til you find the one you'll love.

Earth-Shattering Poems /
Here in Harlem: Poems in Many Voices /
I Wouldn't Thank You for a Valentine: Poems for Young Feminists /
The Invisible Ladder /
Jump Ball: A Basketball Season in Poems /
Looking for your Name: A Collection of Contemporary Poems /
Love, Ghosts and Facial Hair /
Movin': Teen Poets Take Voice /
Poems for Homeroom: A Writer's Place to Start /
Polaroid and Other Poems of View /
Quiet Storm: Voices of Young Black Poets /
River of Words: Young Poets and Artists on the Nature of Things /
The Space between our Footsteps: Poems and Paintings from the Middle East /
What Have You Lost? Poems selected by Naomi Shihab Nye
Your Own, Sylvia: A Verse Portrait of Sylvia Plath /
Bend, Don't Shatter: Poets on the Beginning of Desire /

Poetry Out Loud is a program sponsored by the Poetry Foundation. It is a nationwide poetry recitation contest for High School Students. Checkout some of the performances here.