Poetry is an art form predating literacy. It has been sung or recited and has documented centuries worth of history, emotion, prayer, tradition, instruction and love. It has covered topics ranging from death and heartbreak to the sound of wind rustling through the trees.
April is all about celebrating this form of literature. This month is the 20th observance of National Poetry Month, inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. It has since been widely celebrated by schools, libraries, writers and literature lovers alike.
Poetry has affected, in some way, countless lives both past and present. Shelby Minnmann, Simpson College sophomore studying English, French and women and gender studies, is one of those lives.
According to Minnmann, she started writing poetry in high school. What started as rhyming poems about crushes slowly become poems about darker and deeper material.
“I kinda grew up wanting not to be in real life, which sounds extremely depressing,” she said. ”I still wanted my life, but I also wanted somebody else’s. So I invented a piece of myself that could go on paper and explore things that I didn’t.”
After coming to Simpson, Minnmann joined Simpson Poets Society, a student club that travels to Des Moines twice a month to perform poetry. She explained she was nervous about reading her poetry the first time she read, but it was ultimately a positive experience.
Her first time reading poetry with the club was at a Java Joes’ monthly poetry slam. A poetry slam, according to Poetry Slam Inc., is a competitive form of poetry. The competition judges poets on both writing and performance skills, and the audience rates each performance using a numerical scale.
Minnmann advanced to the second of three rounds and said she felt encouraged by the feedback she was given by both strangers and the students she was with. She said she felt students have been especially accepting, supportive and encouraging.
“I love my Simpson experience so far,” she explained. “I am really glad I am around people who accept that.”
The Simpson Poets Society group performs every third Tuesday of the month at Java Joes’ poetry slam, and every fourth Thursday of the month at Ritual Café’s open mic night.
Minnmann encourages any students who are interested in poetry to try their hand at writing,
“It’s not something that should be, like, ‘I could never do that,’” she said. “It could turn into a poem, or it could turn into a mess which is a beautiful mess, and messes can still be poetry.”
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