U.S. celebrates National Poetry Month


Sign posted on the doors of Illinois’ Oak Park Public Library./photo courtesy of the Oak Park Public Library//Flickr

Each year since 1996, the United States has recognized the month of April as National Poetry Month, a celebration of poetry organized by the Academy of American Poets. The recognition was designed to increase the appreciation for and simple awareness of poetry within the country.

April was selected as the month of celebration because the original organizers deemed this a month where they could see the highest level of participation. The inspiration for a dedicated poetry month came from the success seen by Black History Month (celebrated in February) and Women’s History Month (celebrated in March).

According to the AAP, the goals of National Poetry Month are to encourage support for poets and poetry while highlighting the legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets, encourage poem readership, assist teachers in introducing poetry in classrooms, inspire increased publication and distribution of poetry books and increase the attention paid to poetry by the media.

There are a variety of ways the AAP celebrates the month as an organization.

They offer the Dear Poet Project, a multimedia education project that invites students from fifth to 12th grade to write letters responding to work from award-winning poets who serve on the AAP’s Board of Chancellors.

The chancellors then respond to select letters of their choosing.

The AAP also recognizes Poem in Your Pocket Day. The day of celebration this year is April 18. On this day, the AAP asks that participants select a poem, carry and share it with others and post on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

The Office of the Mayor in New York City initiated Poem in Your Pocket Day in 2002 alongside the city’s Department of Cultural Affairs and Department of Education.

It was not until 2008 that the AAP took Poem in Your Pocket Day to all 50 states in the country. The League of Canadian Poets even extended the initiative to Canada in 2016.

Charlottesville, Virginia, is one of several towns or cities across the country that deeply adopt the day-long celebration. The city’s Jefferson-Madison Regional Library distributes poem scrolls throughout Charlottesville. They deliver over 7,000 total scrolls across the town to libraries, senior centers, nursing homes, small local businesses, a local hospital and a children’s museum.

The AAP also organizes and hosts Poetry & the Creative Mind. Located at the Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, this is an annual gala celebration of “poetry’s important place in our culture and its impact on the lives of readers and artists working in other disciplines,” according to the event’s website.

Typically a star-studded event, the organization has brought in celebrities such as Wayne Brady, Tina Fey, Paul Simon, Uma Thurman, Vanessa Williams and Meryl Streep to be Honored Readers. These celebrities would share their favorite poems onstage.

The city of Greensboro plans to celebrate National Poetry Month with Teen and Tween G.L.O.W. (Greensboro Library on the Weekends) at the Central Library on Church Street on April 13.

This is a poetry celebration where techniques from the book “Wishes, Lies and Dreams” by Kenneth Koch are taught to participants. Though targeted toward tweens and teens, the event is open to those of all ages.

The Benjamin Branch Library, also located in Greensboro, will celebrate the month with Poetry+Mindful Meditation on April 30. The event is designed to combine poetry with mindful meditation and writing.

According to the event site, the event is inspired by the concept of mindfulness reducing stress and anxiety, “which frees the mind from worrying and encourages creative thinking.”

On April 25, the Glenn McNairy Branch Library is hosting a free word collage and poetry makerspace event at their location.

Similarly, the High Point Public Library will share copies of a different poem each day of the month, curated from a variety of authors, eras and subjects.

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina Arts Council Poet Laureate Jaki Shelton Green will speak during the On the Same Poem Event at the Forsyth Central Library on April 18.