Vaunda Micheaux Nelson

Poetry: The Words That Emerge

There’s no set formula, of course, but sometimes someone describes poetry in a way that helps me see new ways to find it . . . new ways to let the words that emerge fall onto the page in patterns that can’t be described as anything but poetry.  Kwame Alexander and Deanna Nikaido, with illustrator Melissa Sweet, do exactly this in How to Write a Poem (Quill Tree Books, 2023).

Regular readers of my blog know how I love words, and National Poetry Month is a good time to celebrate them.  I don’t need an excuse to take a poetry break, but I’m always happy when April comes around to give me one.

How to Write a Poem is instructional, yes, but more than that, it is poetry itself — playful and inspiring, artful and eloquent.  It demonstrates how true it is that a poem doesn’t need a lot of words—just the best ones in the best order.  I advise those who read this gem to take time with each page, each line, each word, and each of Sweet’s images.  When you’ve turned the last page, you may find words “waiting to slide down your pencil . . . and become a voice . . .”

As for me,

        I will read a poem tonight
       and feel young again.
       I will run barefooted through the grass
       and talk to the butterflies.
                         — Norris E. Micheaux, Jr.
                                   (my father)