March has yielded its temper to the fickle sweetness of April, the third-snowiest month of the Colorado year. Today, Easter Sunday, is the first of April. I hear the toddlers next door hunting Easter eggs. I hear the church down the street pealing bells of joyous rebirth. The sun is bright; the air is chilly. A small girl in tall bunny ears runs across the grass. The sounds and sights of Easter Morning, the First of April, create a living poem.
April is National Poetry Month in the US. Most years I celebrate by attending the National Association of Poetry Therapy conference and by folding poems into the hands of clients, friends, family and strangers. Other years, including this one, I commit to finding one poem a day to share with my readers.
This year I am focusing on “indie poets” — poets who have published (sometimes self-published) chapbooks or small collections with any number of small literary presses that specialize in authors whose works have large impact in local or regional poetry circles or whose work represents a voice to a particular audience or on a particular topic. These writers are often colleagues from the poetry therapy world — sometimes my peers and friends, sometimes invited poets who have offered readings or taught workshops at any of the quarter-century of annual conferences I’ve attended. Sometimes they are volumes that have arrived in the mail from poets previously unknown to me. And a few more familiar names appear, too, with poems that appear in indie anthologies.
Although most of these poets may not be well-known outside of their individual spheres of influence, every one of them is a powerful voice for the communities, whether geographic or psychographic, they represent. Some are more widely known as literary poets. Each one represents the beauty and power of poetry that may not always show up in a Google search but remains urgent and necessary.
Although I did not specifically select poems that meet the criteria for therapeutic literature from the classic theories and paradigms of poetry therapy, I cannot undo 20 years of practice, and I reflexively scan for these criteria. Thus, most of the poems this month probably fit most of the criteria. All of them fit two of the eight primary considerations: each in their own way represents a universality of experience for its core audience (e.g. those with chronic pain will likely find a point of connection with a chosen poem about chronic pain), and all poems were chosen specifically to meet the criteria for succinctness. Nearly all poems meet my colleague/friend Sherry Reiter’s genius “palm-of-the-hand” criteria–that a work used in poetry therapy should be of a length no more than the palm of the hand, from the tip of the third finger to the wrist. Poetically, this translates to about 24 lines.
As I pulled volumes off my bookshelves and sat amidst them absorbed by each collection, I couldn’t help but notice the preponderence of books–and thus, poems represented here–that describe a particular life experience: traumatic injury, chronic pain, devastating loss, a struggle to survive against overwhelming odds. The natural conclusion I derive is that these poems offer yet more evidence that writing–and poetry in particular–is a primary language of healing.
Please join me this month in a daily celebration of indie poetry!
Your thoughts about an indie poem a day?