Poetry is Not a Luxury: Celebrating National Poetry Month 2024 with Pongo Poetry Project

Poetry is Not a Luxury: Celebrating National Poetry Month 2024 with Pongo Poetry Project


By Brandy Ingram

Brandy Ingram is a member of Pongo’s Marketing Committee.

Poetry is a funny thing. Many teachers will attest that the mere mention of the word is met with groans of dread from their students. And, in the context of Western hypercapitalism, it’s a (beautiful) waste of time. So why have humans written and shared poetry—one of the oldest forms of creative expression—for millennia? It has to be doing something.

April is National Poetry Month, and we at Pongo invite readers to engage with the raw power of poetry; its power to heal, unite, educate, and inspire resilience is one of the core tenets of our program.

Audre Lorde’s essay Poetry is Not a Luxury proposes the idea of “poetry as illumination.” She likens poetry to a tool to help us discover, harness, and polish the “ancient and hidden” power inside—a power that is particularly pertinent for historically marginalized people.

Consider this excerpt from Lorde’s essay:

[Poetry] is a vital necessity of our existence. It forms the quality of the light within which we predicate our hope and dreams toward survival and change, first made into language, then into idea, then into more tangible action. Poetry is the way we help give name to the nameless so it can be thought…. The white fathers told us: I think, therefore I am. The Black mother within each of us—the poet—whispers in our dreams: I feel, therefore I can be free.

The poetic process is the first step as it requires inward reflection. It’s not easy, but in doing so, we’re able to name even the stickiest, most troubling emotions. The act of naming on the page allows the “fears which rule our lives and form our silences” to “lose their control over us.” By shining a light on our inner monsters, we gain our power back.

Cultivating this skill is about more than making art, it’s about fostering emotional intelligence, which allows us to build a sanctuary within ourselves. For those facing hardship, youths especially, this skill can spell the difference between resilience and despair.

But you don’t have to be a writer to engage with the power of this art form; studies have shown that simply appreciating poetry comes with a slew of psychological benefits like soothing the mind and body, shaping positive personality traits, and fostering coping skills. The art is in the act of looking inward, a sacred pause to grow and heal.

As Lorde proclaims, poetry is the “skeleton” of our heart and soul; the feelings that make us form the basis of our growth. Through writing and reading poetry, we can clearly see, process, and release the stickiest facets of our life experiences. In doing so, we uncover truths and strengths we didn’t know we had.

The farthest horizons of our hopes and fears are cobbled by our poems, carved from the rock experiences of our daily lives.

Here are some ideas to help you celebrate National Poetry Month:

  • Read a poem a day, and make writing or reading poetry part of your daily rituals for the month. Any poem, anywhere, any time! After feeling the benefits of this powerful practice, you might continue beyond National Poetry Month!
  • Pick up an anthology of Pongo youth poetry! Or try a random book of poetry, full of different voices and styles. If you don’t know where to start, ask your local librarian for recommendations.
  • Gift a poem from your pocket—April 18th is officially Poem in Your Pocket Day! Jot down your favorite poem (or lines from a poem) on a notecard and give it to a friend or neighbor in passing—it might just brighten their day!
  • Stock free little libraries with your own poetry or your favorite poems.
  • Get your poetry juices flowing with one of these writing activities (the same ones we use in Pongo youth poetry programming)!
  • Add a poem to your email footer for the month.
  • Share poetry on social media.
  • Attend a poetry reading around town. Be it a book launch, slam, or open mic, you’re sure to find something to suit your style. Seattle City of Literature’s event calendar is a great place to look.

About Brandy

Brandyce (Brandy) Ingram is an educator, jazz-lover, and writer in Seattle. Her poems have been published by Wild Roof Journal, Willowdown Books, Beyond Queer Words, and others. Additionally, her creative nonfiction essays have appeared in The Bangalore Review, Sand Hills Literary Magazine, and The Austin Chronicle. She’s currently crafting a work of historical fiction regarding early 20th-century “lunatic” asylums.

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