Every year as April approaches, my colleagues and I gather together to make a decision. What poem will we choose to celebrate National Poetry Month this year?
For the last nine years, students at Conestoga High School have marked National Poetry Month with a celebration known as “One Poem, One ‘Stoga.” Each April, every English class takes a break from its regularly scheduled programming to study one poem together. That means that more than 2,000 students, from 14-year-old freshmen to 18-year-old seniors, read the same poem. It’s one of the few shared experiences students have that transcends age, grade, and academic level.
As you can see, we’ve celebrated National Poetry Month with a range of wonderful poems:
- 2006: “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird” (Wallace Stevens)
- 2007: “The Weight of Sweetness” (Li-Young Lee)
- 2008: “The Summer I Was Sixteen” (Geraldine Connelly)
- 2009: “Sad as a ship” (Charles Simic)
- 2010: “The Fury of Overshoes” (Anne Sexton)
- 2011: “Fairy Tale Logic” (A.E. Stallings)
- 2012: “Blackberry Eating” (Galway Kinnell)
- 2013: “The Changing Light” (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
- 2014: “Spring in New Hampshire” (Claude McKay)
While reading such beautiful poetry is certainly worthwhile on its own, each year students also use the selected poem as a mentor text to write their own poetry. Over the years, we’ve had poems that explored thirteen ways of looking at sunsets as well as the fury of the backpack. One of the few poems I’ve written that I’ve actually liked—I openly admit to being poetry-challenged—was inspired by Li-Young Lee’s “The Weight of Sweetness.” My version, about the weight of motherhood, is below: