April is Poetry Month

April is Poetry Month. I know, I know. It is the end of the month already.  So sorry. I’ve been a little, well, busy. Long-time readers know that I developed a love of poetry when I had FBC. There was something about being sooooooo slowed down that enabled me to enjoy poetry in a way that I never had before. Cultivating an appreciation for and love of poetry was definitely a Silver Lining of FBC. Poet Pamela Spiro Wagner has written a sublime beginners guide to reading poetry, in poem form of course. Turns out, mastering poetry is a lot like mastering life: totally doable and utterly enjoyable.  Hope that you enjoy!

How to Read a Poem: A Beginner’s Manual by Pamela Spiro Wagner

First, forget everything you have learned,

that poetry is difficult,

that it cannot be appreciated by the likes of you,

with your high school equivalency diploma,

your steel-tipped boots,

or your white-collar misunderstandings.


Do not assume meanings hidden from you:

the best poems mean what they say and say it.


To read poetry requires only courage

enough to leap from the edge

and trust.


Treat a poem like dirt,

humus rich and heavy from the garden.

Later it will become the fat tomatoes

and golden squash piled high upon your kitchen table.


Poetry demands surrender,

language saying what is true,

doing holy things to the ordinary.


Read just one poem a day.

Someday a book of poems may open in your hands

like a daffodil offering its cup

to the sun.


When you can name five poets

without including Bob Dylan,

when you exceed your quota

and don’t even notice,

close this manual.



You can now read poetry.


~From “We Mad Climb Shaky Ladders” by Pamela Spiro Wagner

Leave a comment


  1. E.B. says

    When I was in 8th grade, one of my favorite teachers (whose name now escapes me, geeeez) read "Reflections on a Gift of Watermelon Pickle Received from a Friend Called Felicity" by John Tobias, to our class and then asked us to write what we thought of the poem. I fell in love with poetry (and that poem) right then and there. To this day, it remains a favorite. Poetry feeds our souls.

    • silverpen says

      What a wonderful story, E.B.! Thank you so much for your story. Poetry does indeed feed our souls. 🙂