A love poem

I kind of hate the month of April, which is mean to say for a few reasons. (Sorry to my brother, who celebrates his birthday this month, and my brand new nephew, just born last night!) I'm just not a spring type of gal, what with the thick air and rain boots and wildly inconsistent temperatures. Also, flowers. What are those about? (Okay, just kidding about that last part. Look at those flowers I found in London last week! Breathtaking. Of course, they're like a month ahead of us, season-wise, so don't get any ideas, East Coasters.) But there is one thing I adore about April. It's National Poetry Month.

I love, love, love poetry.

One day in college I was assigned "Spring Azures" by Mary Oliver. It was fall, and I was curled up on a couch plowing through my work with russet-colored leaves twirling around the windowsill and witches and spiders adorning my walls (it was Halloween, obvs) and I opened up that Oliver poem and read it out loud (it's what I do with poetry) and I started crying, completely unexpectedly. (I just remembered I talked about that here. Geez, Morg. Diversify.) It remains my favorite poem of all time.

Second place, though, is vastly different from Oliver in both theme and style: WH Auden's "Musee des Beaux Arts." The poem was inspired by Brueghel's "Fall of Icarus" but I don't even think you need to see that painting to get it; I think you just need to pause over those final five lines and let them seduce you; linger over them for a while and think about humanity. I don't even care if that sounds pretentious. It's what you need to do.

One year I was leading the poetry workshop for Girls Write Now and we were teaching sestinas and villanelles and I found myself falling in love with "One Art" by Elizabeth Bishop and Sylvia Plath's "Mad Girl's Love Song," and so many others, so many unexpected others, and spent months afterwards starting and stopping my own until I finally landed on one I was okay with. There's something really freeing in all that structure.

There are others who've made big dents in me. Margaret Atwood. Seamus Heaney. Dorothy Parker. Edna St Vincent Millay. Langston Hughes. My point is, poetry is super. If you're not a reader of it, why not try? April is the perfect month, after all.

Celebrating poetry

Today kicks off National Poetry Month, which proves how nerdy I am, because I get excited about it. Last Friday, my mentee and I read joint villanelles at CHAPTERS, the Girls Write Now reading series (which, btw, I will be emceeing on April 23 with keynote speaker Lizzie Skurnick and NYC's best teen writers!). When I was paired up with Shira three years ago (!), I knew we'd get along swimmingly both writing-wise and life-wise, only because we immediately realized how much we love to write poetry. That first year, we did a joint cinquain project--I would write one and send it to her, and she'd write one using my last line as her first line, and so on.

Last year we upped the ante, choosing six words and each writing a sestina with them. That was a challenge--sestinas are long and highly structured--but I think our pieces turned out beautifully.

And finally, this year, our final year as an official pair (she's off to Wesleyan in the fall--sob!), we chose villanelles. (For an example of an amazing villanelle, check out Sylvia Plath's Mad Girl's Love Song and some other famous ones here.) We settled on an opening line, and each branched off into our own work.

Here's how mine turned out:

My city speaks to me in fits and starts; a still life that’s always breathing. She seeps into my skin like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.

Characters emerge on every corner, hushing me when I try to decipher the mother tongue, the fragrant voices in which my city speaks, to me and only me.

They’re a riddle, these murmurs: how did we all get here, and who will make it out alive? I hang my head, listen, and New York seeps into me, like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.

Somewhere tonight there is a rooftop party, and it hums its songs overhead, spinning into stars, through slate and stone. I listen for clues to the mysteries of this verbal city.

Somewhere tonight there is a subway stalled, people pressing ears to chipped cement walls, calling out. She’s calling, too; seeping in like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.

The languages mingle, blending into colors we haven’t yet named. We dance our dances, knock on buildings, kick up leaves, whistle at buses. My city speaks to me, to us; oil on canvas, dripping on hands. New York, she seeps into me like the bleeding lines of a wet painting.