April is National Poetry Month! A month dedicated to celebrating masterful, funny, or disturbing poems — poems that stick with you and memorize themselves like too-catchy pop songs. Poems whose lines might rattle around in your head for weeks.
But I know that poetry can also be kind of impenetrable, like when a poem is full of SAT vocabulary, or when the subject of the poem is so obscure that you feel like you’re deciphering a riddle. I wanted to share 5 poems that use plain, ordinary language. I believe these plain poems become extraordinary because the poet shows us what’s beautiful or surprising in an ordinary moment. I am linking to the poems and sharing my favorite lines from each:
- “Just a New York Poem,” Nikki Giovanni. A lovely NY love poem with lots of detail.
“i wanted to give
myself to the cyclone that is
and let you in the eye of my hurricane and know
the calm before”
- “Gee You’re So Beautiful That It’s Starting to Rain,” Richard Brautigan. Short and quirky.
lives like music in the skin
and sounds like a sunshine harpsichord.”
- “Eating Poetry,” Mark Strand. Ok this one is just a little mysterious, but funny! My theory is that it’s the dog snacking on his owner’s books.
“I am a new man.
I snarl at her and bark.
I romp with joy in the bookish dark.”
- “Mountain Dew Commercial Disguised as a Love Poem,” Matthew Olzmann. Read the whole thing! It’s romantic in the most ordinary of ways.
“…And one day five summers ago,
when you couldn’t put gas in your car, when your fridge
was so empty—not even leftovers or condiments—
there was a single twenty-ounce bottle of Mountain Dew,
which you paid for with your last damn dime
because you once overheard me say that I liked it.”
- “The Sweetness of Dogs,” Mary Oliver. If you’re like me and don’t read things about dogs because of emotions, I promise this is an easy safe one. Plus the dog’s name (spelled different but still)!
“Thus we sit, myself
thinking how grateful I am for the moon’s
perfect beauty and also, oh! how rich
it is to love the world. Percy, meanwhile,
leans against me and gazes up
into my face. As though I were just as wonderful
as the perfect moon.”