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April is National Poetry Month. Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, the month celebrates the importance of poetry in our culture.Managing Editor Christopher Fox Graham

Poetry lives with us from nursery rhyme to epitaph. Pop song lyrics are poems put to music. Every one of us has collection of old love letters hidden somewhere. In those envelopes are poems we’ve written or received. As a species that communicates through language, we play with its rules and bend sentences in creative ways to explore new ideas.

We express ourselves through poetry because a good poem reveals a universal human experience whether it’s a devotional psalm, Shakespearean love poem, hip-hop rhyme or a teenager’s angsty notebook poem.

Poetry is our most ancient art form. Narratives like the epics of Gilgamesh and Beowulf were passed through history as oral poems long before they were written down. Our religious texts are books of poems. Monuments, frescos and architectural marvels of fallen empires suffer the ravages of time and turn to dust, but poetry lives as long as there are speakers and readers willing to give life to poems written by the dead.

National Poetry Month holds special significance for me as a poet myself. I fell in love with performance poetry in 1999 and over the last 15 years, I have spent time with some of the best performance poets on the continent in our local, state and national poetry slam communities, many of whom have come through Sedona and performed for our residents. Our art form is a gimmick designed for one purpose: To encourage people to read more poetry and pick up the pen themselves. We slammers believe there are two kinds of people: Poets who write and poets who haven’t written yet.

I will leave you with some of my favorite poetic lines in the hope that you too will rekindle your love of poetry this month:

  •  “Pretend inside your skin you’ve got a friend willing to give you everything you’ve ever wanted in exchange for everything you’ve ever been,” from “Pretend,” by Buddy Wakefield.

  •  “From now on, cities will be built on one side of the street so soothsayers will have wilderness to wander and lovers space enough to contemplate a kiss,” from “, said the shotgun to the head,” by Saul Williams.

  •  “Justino was raised 10 sniper-scope magnifications away from an America that will cross the ocean armed and blindfolded to siphon a stranger’s oil but won’t talk with the next-door neighbor about improvements that need to happen on our shared soil,” from “Justino,” by Ryan Brown.

  •  “Graves are things we walk upon and must walk away from. If I could un-invent shoebox-sized caskets, I would do this for you,” from “A Short Song,” by Derrick C. Brown.

  •  “Affirm your children. Touch their chest then the sky, ‘You are Hashem and Sarhai. Muhammad and Allah. You are Yeshuah and Adonai. Buddha. Buddha. Buddha.’ but don’t let a book of old poems tell you so,” from “If This Poem,” by Christopher Lane.

Enjoy National Poetry Month.

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