Last Friday, I had the privilege of listening to the next generation of poets at an “All Youth Poets” showcase. It gave me great satisfaction to know that poetry, about which I am so deeply passionate, is being carried on by our city’s youth. I remember not too long ago, I was in their shoes. No, I didn’t participate in an event of this caliber. I was never under the tutelage of teaching artists at Just Buffalo Literary, who themselves are great poets and writers. The one thing I did have as a young poet, like the youth on Friday, was a willingness to step out of my comfort zone and share my words with others. Poetry has been my way of making sense of life. Having an outlet to articulate my sentiments has been invaluable.
April is when we celebrate National Poetry Month. It is a time when the poets of our nation come together and say poetry is not dead. And nowhere is that truth more evident than right here in the city of Buffalo. Through events such as Pure Ink’s slam competitions, a new monthly reading at Nietzsche's and more familiar series like the Third Wednesday Series and Wordism, poetry is more alive than ever before. Also, this month offers an exciting new opportunity for young poets. The editors of local literary presses like Steel Bellow, Ghost City Review Foundlings Magazine and local poets have teamed up to create an anthology of poems by local poets under 40, with submissions being accepted through the end of the month.
Don’t miss out on this great opportunity to showcase your talent, along with some of the best poets in Buffalo! And let’s not forget about other groups such as Peach Mag, which continues to make the work of local poets more accessible, at no cost, by publishing content strictly online and by hosting local and out-of-town talent at their Episodes readings. Or the Cringe-Worthy Poets Collective, which has been a consistently strong presence in the literary community by hosting high-profile writers such as Neil Hilborn, whose poem “OCD” has been viewed by more than 12 million people; at more laid-back events like Ground & Sky; and through its CWP Collective Press chapbooks.
There's far more to say about the awesome events taking place in Buffalo during April, but National Poetry Month is much more than just events and literary magazines. For me, it’s a celebration of poetry as a powerful form of self-expression. I discovered my passion for poetry after using it as a coping mechanism to help me deal with challenging life circumstances. What I found through my poems and the work of other poets is that a simple poem can have a lasting impression on people simply because of how powerful and beautifully crafted the message is.
Think about poets throughout history. Would Langston Hughes’ message about African Americans being unequal have carried the same weight had it not been conveyed in his poem “I Too”? Could we have understood the deep, deep sorrow Sylvia Plath felt without her paternal figure had she not written “Daddy”? What about the poetry that defined an era like the ‘Beat Generation, which so influenced American culture? Would the work of Alan Ginsberg or Gary Snyder have had the same effect on our literary culture if their work weren’t part of a such significant movement in American literary history? Think about the city of Buffalo. Over the last couple of years, the Buffalo community has been galvanized by local poets who started by merely wanting their voices to be heard. Poetry has always been one of the best ways to get people to listen.
National Poetry Month is a reminder of the impact poetry has had on me and many other writers. A simple poem can make you look at life differently, help you cope with difficult situations, and understand another person’s perspective on things. Poetry can ignite the spirit of a community just like it did and continues to do in Buffalo. There is no shortage of passionate writers who now have outlets for their creative work or of readers who find the poems of Dickinson, Baldwin and Angelou just as meaningful today as when they were written.
So, in honor of National Poetry Month, I want to send a heartfelt thank you to everyone who’s ever written a poem, published content in a literary magazine, fostered the talents of the next generation of poets, and supports our local talent. I will be forever thankful to you all.
Happy National Poetry Month!