It’s still poetry month, which got me thinking about how most of us were first introduced to poetry – it could have been Mother Goose rhymes or Dr. Suess. But perhaps the real rite of passage into poetry came when we were in grammar school and had to memorize a poem. It’s still a wonderful idea even as we get older.

Let’s see, back then, there was Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s

Paul Revere’s Ride

Listen my children and you shall hear 
Of the midnight ride of Paul Revere, 
On the eighteenth of April, in Seventy-five; 
Hardly a man is now alive 
Who remembers that famous day and year. . . .

And Emily Dickinson’s

A Light Exists in Spring

A Light exists in Spring

Not present in the Year

At any other period –

When March is scarcely here

A Color stands abroad

On Solitary Fields

That Science cannot overtake

But Human Nature feels.. . .


And we can’t forget Robert Louis Stevenson’s

The Swing

How do you like to go up in a swing, 
Up in the air so blue? 
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing 
Ever a child can do! 

Up in the air and over the wall, 
Till I can see so wide, 
River and trees and cattle and all 
Over the countryside-- 

Till I look down on the garden green, 
Down on the roof so brown-- 
Up in the air I go flying again, 
Up in the air and down! 

Try it again. Try memorizing some favorite poems – or parts of favorite poems. By memorizing them, they become a part of you – their inner rhythm, cadence, flow, and language – all of which can enrich your own writing. You can find poetry everywhere, but for some classics that are wonderful to read aloud and memorize, get Poetry to Read Out Loud, edited by Robert Alden Rubin.

Here’s a poem from the book to get you started. It’s from Dylan Thomas and is a villanelle.

Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, 
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Every day this month, I am posting tips, advice, and inspiration about poetry on My Blog.