It was an early start to what is already becoming a glorious National Poetry Month. The annual event, which falls on April each year, luxuriates in the form, celebrating poetry in all its shapes, sources and sizes. And we at NPR couldn't help but toss our hats into the ring.
Excuse me — perhaps I ought to phrase that a bit differently: We tossed your hats into the ring.
That's because, before the month even began, we got things rolling by asking our listeners to tweet their tiny poems at us using the hashtag #NPRpoetry. Since then, I — your humble curator — have been sifting through the dozens of 140-character verses that have come streaming in.
A few trends made themselves immediately apparent. For one thing, there were haiku — lots of haiku — but I suppose that's to be expected. The bite-sized form is tailor-made for the strict character limitations we demanded of our trove of budding poets.
Those same limitations inspired more than a few deeply meta works, which dwelt with the writer's struggle — or should we say the tweeter's struggle? Seems to be a question for the philosophers, hmm?
And then, there was another trend entirely. It wasn't long before I noticed that many of our poets were tweeting not just with #NPRpoetry, but with a second hashtag, too: #PoetryWHS.
After a little sleuthing, we got to the bottom of this mystery. It turns out that Natalie Plowman, a teacher at Windsor High School in Colorado, asked her poetry students to join in with NPR's Twitter callout.
"Some of them really got into it. A couple of them, as you can probably see from the hashtag, felt that it was just a requirement and silly," she tells NPR. "So it was kind of all over the spectrum."
And that was certainly in evidence.
There were the serious.
"It takes a lot to
Love those who do not love you
But that is real strength"
"I have to pee
I see a big aspen tree
Good enough for me...."
And this one poem — from a student who isn't even in Plowman's class. He just saw his friends doing it, so he figured he would, too.
"I hate poetry class,
Because it's full of cats,
But really I don't even have poetry class"
But we can't rely simply on Windsor High to lead the way forever, especially with spring break looming menacingly on the calendar. If you'd like to join in too, just tweet your teeny works of art with #NPRpoetry. All month we'll be greedily reading them — and reading them aloud on air, as well.
If you're nervous about lending your own voice to the chorus, just heed the words of wisdom Plowman offered her students at the start.
"I just asked them to be who they are. Some them are completely comical and some of them are a little more serious," she says. "Whatever is on your mind right now, that's what I want you to put into this."