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National Poetry Month rocks—but nobody seems to care about it

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Poets are notoriously late for everything, so it makes sense that a column celebrating April as National Poetry Month would come in the latter half of the month. Cheers!

Being a poet in Tucson—or being a poet anywhere, for that matter—comes with distinct advantages. For starters, you can ignore that thing called being on time. Then you have that peachy perk called poetic license.

Poetic license lets you misspell and even invent your own words. You also get to make up your own grammar rules. Tis loads. Of fun. You should.

Try it sometime.

You can also take the license a notch further and come up with your own versions of the truth, a thing my mom calls "selective memory." She still swears she has no recollection of blaming me for the dark caramel swirled into the living room's white carpet that was actually caused by the grubby kid visiting from next door.

The major downside to being a poet, of course, is the pay. Although I have nabbed several paid performances and awards—like my tie for first place in a suicidal poetry contest—my overall poetry career has so far netted me less than $500. That's not counting the free hatchet I once received for writing the creepiest Halloween poem.

National Poetry Month seems like the epitome of a Hallmark holiday invented to sell more cards. After all, a big chunk of cards are splattered with poetry, or at least attempts at it. "Roses are red, violets are blue, I'm sending this card 'cause I love you."

April's poetic designation, however, actually came from the Academy of American Poets. The academy kicked off the celebration in 1996, choosing April based on the academy's thought that April would garner the most participation.

Besides, March and February were already taken by celebrations of women's history and black history, respectively. January is just too dismal to celebrate much of anything due to maxed-out credit cards from holiday shopping. Thus, April it was, and has been for 16 years.

So why don't more people seem to care?

Part of the problem is the thought that poetry is too tedious or headache-inducing to understand. While it is true that poets have that wonderful poetic license to be as obscure as they wish, many of them are concrete, in-your-face and as obvious as blood splatter (or caramel swirls) on white carpet.

Others may shy away from poetry because of the leech-like stigmas still attached to the art. Poets are frequently and erroneously thought of as intellectual snobs, simpering wimps or just plain crazy. The crazy part may be true in many cases. But there is certainly nothing snobby or wimpy about William Blake's images of violent rebellion against demonic England, or Charles Bukowski's twisted take on just about everything.

Guys in particular may avoid poetry, thinking it's just not "manly enough" for their macho image. That happens to be the same fallacy that makes some men fear crying in public or making coo-chi-coo noises at a puppy.

The real truth is there are plenty of manly poems and poets out there. Another truth that may help some guys rethink the poetry thing is the reaction they can get when they write a woman a love poem from the depths of their hearts. You should.

Try it sometime.

Another fun thing to try is incorporating poetry into your daily life. Tucson is fertile ground for the stuff. Hummingbirds flit quick like haiku. A rattlesnake's slither is a slinky poetic line. And rush hour in midtown can be likened to a brain-choking epic poem that lasts longer than reading Homer's Iliad and Odyssey back to back. It may even be more tumultuous.

Poetry surrounds us through the searing sun, the road's motorcycle-rumbling tar lines and even the colorful pops of garbage-can art that merrily line Fourth Avenue. Screaming matches on the street are a full-fledged poetry slam. The crickets' chirps are rhyming verse.

You also have the option of checking out Tucson poetry events still on this month's agenda—or happening all year long. The University of Arizona Poetry Center is a divine place to start, with events that range from the Tucson Youth Poetry Slam Championship on April 28 to the $150-a-pop weekend symposium coming in May.

Every day is a good day to celebrate poetry—and Tucson is a grand place to do it.

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