Read Poetry, and Not Just During NaPoMo—It’s Good for Your Brain
I’m always shocked when people tell me they don’t like to read. Or that they don’t make time for it. Or that they don’t really care about literature. My life revolves around literature.
Now that I’m in grad school for creative writing, I’m reading more closely and analytically than ever. One of the first required books we read was Francine Prose’s Reading Like a Writer, and it continues to help me read, digest, and analyze reading material in myriad ways. I finished reading both Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy and Directed by Desire, June Jordan’s complete collection of poems—published and unpublished. I broke each book into sections based on number of pages, allowing myself to read slowly, look up concepts or terms I didn’t know, and scribble notes on the side.
After reading like this for an entire semester, I’m not sure how people, especially writers, even have time to watch TV. My eyes are tired enough after doing my required reading for the day; I can’t imagine tuning into one-plus hours of crappy broadcast news or “Real Housewives” drivel.
This prioritization of reading in my life is why this The Expert Editor infographic, via Electric Lit, made me so happy when it came out a few years ago.
I was especially delighted to find that reading complex poetry improves your brain synapses. Next project period, I intend to include another book of poetry in my reading list. Poetry embodies flow, careful word choice, rhythm, beauty—all necessary elements of good fiction writing, too. April, National Poetry Month, is coming to a close. I wrote a few poems this month, but did not attempt to write a poem a day, as some NaPoMo diehards do. I ended up with two solid, somewhat-lengthy poems that I feel comfortable submitting to my MFA mentor for feedback; she is also a poet. Perhaps next year, I’ll try writing four—one for each week of April.
To end my no-alcohol April on a festive note, I attended Untitledtown Book and Author Festival in Green Bay last weekend. Roxane Gay read and took questions from a lively and intelligent audience. I feel lucky to have heard her speak in person; she’s so bright and funny and REAL.
I’m not missing alcohol much this week, with the exception of earlier this week, when I babysat my high-energy nephews. I craved a beer when the day was done. Other than that, I’m pushing forward so hard on this current manuscript that I don’t even have time to sip a glass of wine. Next week, though, I plan on finishing up both packets 4 and 5 (of 5 total packets for the semester), and then—and only then—it will be time to party.
See you on the other side of Dry April, hopefully without a hangover!