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If you want to be a poetic writer, read and write poetry

Part of the pleasure of reading is discovering a word or an arrangement of words that resonate. Like any aspect of writing craft, injecting a poetic influence in your work requires practice. No matter what genre you write, poetry can influence your work.

In honor of National Poetry month, consider adding these reading and writing activities to your creative practice:

Write a poem a day. Several years ago, I decided to do a project where I would write a poem a day. I didn’t put any pressure on myself to write great poetry. I just set the intention. Some days I wrote poems I liked. Other days, I struggled and felt happy if I could write several images or lines that I could work with.

Keep a poem-a-day journal to write your poems and record observations. As you go about your daily life, watch and listen for things that spark your curiosity. My poetry practice had an interesting side effect: I found it enhanced my powers of observation. Read more about it in this post, including tips for starting your own poem-a-day practice.

Read a poem a day. Poetry can help you break through resistance that stalls your writing. If you want to write poetry or anything else poetically, read a poem every day to prime your writing practice. Read poems first all the way through and then read them again to analyze each line. Write in your notebook the lines and images that resonate. Read the poems aloud.

Sign up at to receive a poem-a-day all year in your e-mail. For the month of April, Knopf Poetry will send out a poem a day. Visit the Knopf Doubleday website to sign up. (Click “newsletters” in the left sidebar, check the poetry box, and enter your e-mail.)

Writing poetry is not only a good way to become observant of the world around you. Writing and reading poetry make you conscious of words and their meanings and create a hyper awareness that spills over into all your writing.

For today’s inspiration, read the poem by Mark Strand featured on this year’s National Poetry Month poster, then go write your own poem:

Eating Poetry
Ink runs
from the corners
of my mouth.
there is no happiness
like mine.
I have been eating

From Collected Poems by Mark Strand

How do you know when your poem or story is done?

How do you know when your novel, short story, or poem is finished?

I tend to work on a poem over a series of days or months. I’ll come back to a poem in progress days or weeks later and see a word or phrase that didn’t work because I was too close to it the first time I wrote it.

I listen as I read the lines to myself aloud to decide if something doesn’t sound right. If something doesn’t ring true or feels awkward, or if the poem just doesn’t feel complete or whole, I know I’m not done.  Read more

I’m carrying a poem in my pocket today

Today, to celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day, I’m carrying the poem, “Self Portrait” by David Whyte.

It’s easy to participate. Find a favorite poem and carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends.

You can also share your poem selection on Twitter by using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Poem in Your Pocket Day is celebrated each year during National Poetry Month established by the Academy of American Poets. Part of its mission is to introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading poetry.

Poems from pockets will be unfolded at events in parks, libraries, schools, workplaces, and bookstores in all 50 states throughout the United States today.

Visit to choose your own pocket poem.