National Poetry Month
Lord Byron, Shel Silverstein, Emily Dickinson…you? Honor one of the richest literary forms by writing or reading poetry, learning about poets, or joining a community.
Poetry is all about exploring the ways that the written word is able to communicate to the world in beautiful forms. With various classic poets and more popping up in the limelight, it can be hard to keep up with the latest in poetry while enjoying this form of literature from the past as well.
From old to new, National Poetry Month aims to celebrate the art of poetry in all of its forms, appreciating the history behind it as well as the future that is yet to be seen. This important month also celebrates the lives of poets that inspired it, and is intent on forming a new generation of poets who may just change the landscape of the literary world.
History of National Poetry Month
This day was inspired by the success of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, both of which also happen in the early parts of the calendar year.
With the idea of creating this month, The Academy of American Poets brought together publishers, poets, and literary organizations in 1995 to discuss the usefulness and benefits of celebrating poetry. The Academy of American Poets inaugurated March as National Poetry Month in 1996 and it has been growing in appreciation ever since that time.
Over the span of a couple of decades, this day has actually become one of the largest literary celebrations in the world. Schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets place a focus on celebrating the important place that poetry has in cultures and places all over the world, whether historical or in modern times.
In 1998, just a couple of years after the day’s first celebration, the Academy mentioned above joined with the American Poetry and Literacy Project to distribute more than 100,000 books of poetry free, from New York to California, in honor of National Poetry Month. That same year, a gala was hosted at the White House by President and First Lady Clinton in honor of various Poet Laureates.
By 2001, the Academy also invited people to vote for which poets should get their customized postage stamp. There were over 10,000 casted ballots, and Langston Hughes received the most votes, which put him on a postage stamp that was released in February of the following year.
Each year, an exclusive poster is commissioned and distributed to schools, libraries, and community centers, free of charge, to promote the observance of this month.
Publishers throughout the month pay heed to National Poetry Month by publishing compilations of poetry that are then distributed to bookstores and libraries all over the world. Throughout the month, students are introduced to a variety of different poetic forms and poets from all kinds of schools.
Whether in schools and universities, around the dinner table at home, or at the office water cooler, National Poetry Month is a time to discuss this powerful art form, debate it, and learn from the poets of the past. All of this is an attempt to inspire younger generations to create poetry that allows them to express themselves and their experiences, making a difference for individuals as well as for society as a whole.
How to Celebrate National Poetry Month
National Poetry Month offers a vast array of opportunities to celebrate and enjoy everything to do with poetry–for 31 full days! Come up with some creative ideas to observe the month or try out some of these to get inspired:
Write a Poem
Anyone can be a poet! All they have to do is write poetry. And since the forms of poetry can be unique (it certainly doesn’t have to rhyme!), it’s easy to find one that fits with your own personal style. Haiku, blank verse, rhymes, sonnets, narrative and free verse are just a few of the many options. Rap could even be considered a form of poetry.
Many people find that writing poetry is a therapeutic way to process emotions, feelings, thoughts and struggles. So get that pen onto the paper (or fingers onto the keyboard) and try writing out those thoughts and feelings in the form of a poem. Even if it is never shared with anyone else, the process of writing poetry can be a beautiful exercise.
Participate in or Host a Poetry Event
Celebrate National Poetry Month by participating in or hosting your own poetry events. This could take the form of a poetry reading in your own home, at a local club, or in the library. Gather some friends together and keep it small, or put some advertisements out online to grow the event and make it something that brings the community together around this important topic. Don’t forget to display the Academy’s poster that is created each year in honor of National Poetry Month.
Enjoy Various Poetry Resources
Read poets from the Academy of American Poets’ online database and take the month to read one poem each day. Or pop over to the local library and find out what kind of poetry books they are recommending in honor of National Poetry Month.
Get Involved with Poetry in the Community
If there isn’t already a poetry reading club locally, maybe it’s time to start one! Invite people in the community to meet up with poetry lovers and schedule meeting dates to discuss poetry. Or attend other events in your community (often advertised at the local library). Some people might want to sign up for a slam poetry event at their local club.
No matter how it is celebrated, don’t forget to get the word out by sharing National Poetry Month with friends and family!