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For poets, by poets

Celebrate National Poetry Month with inspiration from master poets.

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The warmer the weather, the faster time seems to fly. Not only are there just eight short days left to enter our short story contest, but there are also only eight days left to celebrate National Poetry Month. Don’t let the cruelest month pass you by, writers. There’s still plenty of time to kick back with Longfellow, Shakespeare, Cummings and Plath. Read a love poem. Read some anti-love poems. Curl up with a mug of tea and the collection of poetry articles in our archives. Or simply spend a few minutes getting advice from fellow poets like you.

The April issue of The Writer featured the art and craft of poetry. Here are five of our favorite bits of wisdom from true masters in the field.

  1. Get encouraged by the masters… “[When asked about influences] I would probably say Whitman – not because I’m anything like him (who could be like Whitman?) but because of the frankness of the scope and the scale, because of his willingness to take it all on. Go for it, Whitman says, which is something every poet should say to him or herself when he or she sits down to write.” —Vijay Seshadri, 3 Sections
  2. …But don’t just stick to the classics. “It’s tremendously important to me to read the work of my peers, especially women writers and especially women writers with children. Reading contemporary work makes me feel like I’m writing in conversation with other poets, that I am not alone.” —Rachel Zucker, The Pedestrians
  3. Accept change. “Every discovery that I make as a writer, and the work it allows me to do, is true only for as long as it is true. Then something else becomes true. Perhaps the first true thing will become true again in the future, but in a different way. Nothing remains true forever.”—Tracy K. Smith, Life on Mars
  4. Don’t let rejection destroy your self-worth. “Try to remember that your rejection will not mean that your poems are no good, any more than acceptance will mean you are a true genius.”—May Sarton, Coming Into Eighty
  5. Remember why you became a poet in the first place. I tell my students that they’ve got to remember why they came to writing, which was out of love and delight or need. This sounds quite idealistic, but it’s quite true: Competitiveness and striving and self-commodification or envy will ruin your writing. What makes it worth staying in the activity, the art, the craft of writing, is your love of other people’s work and your aspiration to get as good as that.” —Tony Hoagland, Twenty Poems That Could Save America and Other Essays


For more poetic inspiration:


Originally Published