Recommended diversions

National Poetry Month

In honor of National Poetry Month this April, here are some recommendations for poetry lovers and those seeking to learn more about the craft. First, a few books...


Brightwood by R.T. Smith — If you enjoy reading Southern poets, you won’t find much better that R.T. Smith. His sweet phrasing, haunting memories and clever wit will leave you breathless. Raised in Georgia and North Carolina, Smith knows the mythology of the South as a good bartender knows his regulars. The landscape and the region’s vernacular become poignant metaphors for an imagination that seeks out mystery and leaves you with unforgettable images. And who else could pull off a villanelle about Doc Watson?

The Cane Groves of Narmana River: Erotic Poems from Old India — This pocket-sized collection of pithy poems translated by Andrew Schelling include tender, playful, sad and ecstatic poems about the many facets of love. Most of the poems were written between the sixth and eleventh centuries in India, so there’s also a lovely history entwined in these words with stories inspired by the natural wonder of rivers and forests where lovers found joy, snuck away for coupling, or wept for their beloved.

If you’re looking for just the right poem, there are lots of great websites out there. Check out where you’ll find poems listed by subject, author and title. Other insightful poetry websites include and (with poem-of-the-day features), (from the Academy of American Poets), and and (for kids and teachers). The North Carolina Arts Council’s webpage — — features a “poet of the week” and a well-stocked archive of Tar Heel poets chosen by N.C. Poet Laureate Kathryn Stripling Byer (the state’s poetry ambassador and proud Western North Carolina resident).

Writers, however, should avoid the “” website and its promise of cash prizes and instant publication. It’s all a scam to get your money. Unfortunately, the poems they publish are not based on literary merit. Instead, check out the latest edition of Poet’s Market for a listing of hundreds of contests, magazines, workshops and publishing houses.

To learn more about the art of writing poetry, I recommend the poetry dictionary by John Drury (my poetry bible), The Poet’s Companion by Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux (an excellent compendium of writing exercises and advice), poemcrazy by Susan Wooldridge (great for beginners), The Poetry Home Repair Manual by Ted Kooser (with practical advice on how to edit poems), and The Making of a Poem (an anthology on form poems like sonnets, sestinas and ballads). Ultimately, the best way to learn more about poetry is to read it and hear it. Just like food or clothing or movies, there’s plenty of poetry out there you may absolutely detest or only mildly like. That’s fine. Let your sensibilities guide you. Try some anthologies to get a taste of what might interest you. Good Poems by Garrison Keillor is a beautiful collection full of many different writers.

This April, enjoy some poetry and share it with a friend!

— By Michael Beadle

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