April is National Poetry Month, and you know what that means: more poetry readings in a single month than the entire rest of the year. But who's reading (and writing) those bits of verse?
Oh, the flush of first love and unbridled hormones! There’s no hyperbole big enough for a twitterpated sophomore to describe the overwhelming feeling of finding true and perfect love for the first time . . . at least, until the breakup happens and she starts writing new poems with rhyming couplets.
Likely to be reading: Shakespeare’s sonnets, Sylvia Plath
On the other end of the high-school spectrum are the Ally Sheedys of the world: grungy, tired, and always wishing that some great experience could save them from their perpetual existential despair. They’ll frequently be found behind the bleachers, smoking clove cigarettes and singing along to the Grateful Dead.
Likely to be reading: Charles Bukowski, Allen Ginsberg
You’ll find them frantically signing up for undergrad workshop classes and clutching spiral-bound notebooks to their chests. They just can’t believe that everybody else has such interesting thoughts about their latest poems! Suddenly, anything is worth writing about: a fresh-blossoming gingko tree, an awkward missed connection, even the color green.
Likely to be reading: Walt Whitman, Billy Collins
Every respectable coffee shop has at least two in supply: vegan-skinny, think-spectacled brooding twentysomethings cradling a soy latté in one hand (“and if you could put some soy whip on top, that’d be ah-mah-zing”) and a Moleskine in the other. Mystical, lightly drug-fueled visions are prime subject matter.
Likely to be reading: Michael Dickman, Matthew Dickman
They’ve got hundreds of submissions to weed out! Nobody seems to get the beauty of a slant rhyme! Why does this one guy keep submitting poems about taking showers? And if they hear one more complaint about the cartoon figure on the back cover of their last issue, they’ll skip town for the weekend to recenter themselves and write a poem about their trials and tribulations.
Likely to be reading: Wallace Stevens, Louise Glück
6) Fresh-Faced Feminists
Their mothers raised them to be CEOs, not cheerleaders, and they’re determined to break the glass ceiling, one poem at a time. Bonus: no impassioned diatribe against the patriarchy would be complete unless they threw in at least one reclaimed gendered insult.
Likely to be reading: Adrienne Rich, Gwendolyn Brooks
It’s the latest “in” thing after crocheting a new throw rug and calling the kids to make sure they’re doing great in college. They just sign up for a continuing-education class, journal a bit for therapy, and then write something that truly captures all the emotions of their lives (and favorite petunias) in fourteen lines. Mid-life crises have never been so classy.
Likely to be reading: Emily Dickinson, Mary Oliver
9) Mid-List Poets
Who’s teaching those workshops? Adjunct professors who made it out of Iowa, published one collection of poems, and promptly got a teaching position for the next twenty years. They usually require one illicit affair with a grad student before they have enough material for their second book, although sometimes a sabbatical to Paris or rural Minnesota does the trick.
Likely to be reading: Matthea Harvey, the latest lit mag they might have been published in
10) Star Poets
They might teach, but they really rake in the cash speaking at conventions and giving high-profile readings. And with cadres of loyal followers, they don’t have time to sit around doodling. They read with a purpose, they write with a purpose, they even sleep with a purpose: publishing their next critically-acclaimed collection. When they’re not taking turns being the Poet Laureate, they summer in New England.
Likely to be reading: other star poets’ books (from John Ashbery to Seamus Heaney), their students’ galley proofs
Credits: Poet and ILA honoree Nora Dauenhauer, taken by Flickr user Sam Beebe. Flickr user suez92. Wiki Commons. Flickr user erink_photography. Wiki Commons. Flickr user ramsey everydaypants. Wiki Commons. Burberry. IMDB. Wiki Commons. Used with a creative commons license.