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Life Kit: How To Engage With Poetry

Apr 11, 2020

TOM GJELTEN, HOST:

It's National Poetry Month. And if that makes you roll your eyes or shiver with memories from 7th grade English class, you're not alone. Thankfully, NPR's Andrew Limbong has been working on an episode for NPR's Life Kit about how to appreciate poetry. And he joins us now.

Hi, Andrew.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: Hey, Tom.

GJELTEN: Now, these days - obviously, these days, people have more time on their hands, and maybe they're ready to start reading poetry. What advice do you have for them?

LIMBONG: I talked to one expert, Franny Choi. She is a poet and a poetry educator. And she actually has her students read poems two different ways. The first way is to savor every syllable, is how she pronounces it. So it's, like, really chew on the mouthfeel of each syllable. And that way, you start to notice, like, oh, the sound S has come up a bunch here. That's interesting.

And then the second way to read it is to read a poem like you are explaining something really difficult, she says. And that's sort of, like, you slow down and take each phrase clause by clause. And I think what that does for me is give me a sort of, like, bird's-eye view of what a poem is trying to tell me without getting bogged down in the sort of, like, details of a word.

GJELTEN: And so once you're actually taking apart these poems and really dwelling on them and appreciate them, maybe the time comes when you can actually try to write poems yourself. And your team, the Life Kit team, is encouraging folks to do that, right?

LIMBONG: Yeah. Like I said, with a lot of us practicing social distancing, we're asking people to write a haiku. For, you know, just a quick refresher, a haiku is three lines, and it's five syllables, then seven syllables and then five syllables. And, you know, write a haiku about social distancing and how you feel about it. You know, we're asking you to share it with us on Twitter. We're at @nprlifekit. And you can use the hashtag #socialdistancinghaiku.

And then if we have the time, I just want to shout out one from Hannah Miller (ph), who said, (reading) he has a secret - found it rearranging drawers. COVID ring - I will.

So not that all art has to necessarily reflect reality, but if (laughter) - if she's saying what I think she's saying with this poem, then congratulations, Hannah.

GJELTEN: Quite sentimental. That was NPR's Andrew Limbong. You can find his episode on appreciating poetry on the NPR Life Kit feed. And remember to send your poem using the hashtag #socialdistancinghaiku.

Thank you, Andrew.

LIMBONG: Thanks.

GJELTEN: And the Life Kit team isn't the only place you can share your poems. We're asking our listeners to share their poems with us for National Poetry Month. If you'd like to hear your original poem on the air, tweet it to @npratc with the hashtag #nprpoetry. Each week through the end of April, a published poet will join us on air to talk about some of the submissions that caught their eye. And even though Twitter has changed its character limit, we're sticking with the original rules. Poems must be 140 characters or less Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.