How To Host A Poetry Book Club

by Sadie Trombetta

Rejoice, poetry lovers, because April is here which means it's officially National Poetry Month, and entire 30 days dedicated to stunning stanzas, visceral verses, and prophetic poets. As part of your celebration this year, go beyond rereading your favorite collection or attending a poetry slam and learn how to host a fun poetry book club of your own. It's a unique and engaging way to make poetry a bigger part of your reading life, this month and beyond.

It's no secret I am a big fan of book clubs. As I write this, I am currently a member of five different groups, each one unique in its membership, reading list, and style. I love reading diverse books with Bustle's American Woman Book Club, diving into a new young adult read with my friends wine and cheese book club, and engaging in social conversations with my community members at the local library's identities book club. But it wasn't until this April's National Poetry Month that I realized I was missing something: poetry.

To fill this stanza-shaped hole I had in my heart and to honor April's celebration, I decided to rile up my favorite reader friends and start a poetry book club of my own. While I thought it would be just like a regular book club, the last two weeks have taught me that poetry book clubs are so much different — and can be so much more fun — than a regular book club.

Ready to recruit fellow readers and start a slam of your own? Then here are five tips on how to host a fun poetry book club for you and your friends. April may be considered the official time to celebrate poetry, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy it all year round.


Decide your club's format, and stick to it.

When you host a traditional book club, one of the first questions you have to answer is, "What kinds of books will we read?" The same rule applies for poetry book clubs, too. Before you get started, decide how you want to run your club: will you read one collection a month, and then get together to discuss it? Will you select one poem to deep-dive into each week? Will you chose a poet rather than a book each month, and exchange your favorite works with one another at the meeting? Will you choose a theme, like nature or love, and ask members to bring appropriate poems to share with the group?

However you decide to run your poetry book club, it's important to have a plan at the beginning, if not for your own sanity as the organizer, for the sake of potential members who want to know, what exactly is this club all about?


Have readings as part of your discussions.

Like sharing your favorite quotes or passages during a regular book club, reading poems out loud in your poetry book club can set the tone for your meeting and reconnect everyone with the reading before you dive into discussion. Take turns reading your favorite poems from the collection, sharing the best lines or stanzas with each other, or start out each meeting by reading an entirely new poem for the group to enjoy or discuss. Poetry is meant to be shared, and shared out loud, and what better place to do that than in your book club?


Switch up the style of poems you read.

Like prose, poetry comes in all different shapes and sizes. From short haikus to long sonnets and everything in between, there is no limit to what form poetry can take, and no restrictions on which kind you and your club can enjoy. Switch up the style of poems your club reads and explore what your favorite forms are. Ask questions about how different formats elicit different reactions, and what exactly constitutes a poem and what doesn't. You may be surprised with what you find out.


Try writing your own verses.

Make your club even more interactive by adding writing exercises into your meetings agenda. Have fun exploring your own poetic talents together by writing your own verses based on your current reading selections, your favorite poet's style, a poem of the day, or something completely new and inventive. You never know, one of your book club members could be the next Emily Dickinson in the making.


Attend local poetry events.

I'm a firm believer that poetry is best enjoyed when read out loud. Hearing the verses spoken, especially by the poet who wrote them, adds an entirely new layer of richness and complexity to the experience. That's why, if you're hosting your own poetry book club, you should check out local events near you that the whole group can enjoy. Whether it's a poetry slam, open mic night, or local reading that your book club can go to together, the experience of engaging with the poetry community will change the way you look at the artform all together.