how do you: celebrate national poetry month?

by January O’Neil

Ahhh, April — that special time of year when our thoughts turn to spring, Opening Day in baseball and National Poetry Month in the United States. So how do you mark what is supposed to be “the cruelest month?” When you tell friends and family it is National Poetry Month, are your responses similar to this:

“National Poetry Month? Ummm … No, I didn’t know.” I’m sure you hear a lot of that.

But after the initial bewilderment, what happens next? Do you explain what happens during the month? Do you inspire dialogue about the meaning of the month? If people ask you, “Why April?” do you have the right answer?

Founded by the Academy of American Poets more than 10 years ago, National Poetry Month has become a way of honoring a time-honored literary genre, while highlighting readings, community events, gatherings, and publications — all related to poetry. April was chosen as poetry month as a nod to T.S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land” and its famous — or infamous — first line, “April is the cruelest month … .”

My small contributions to the national dialogue about National Poetry Month start with writing a poem a day in April, also known as NaPoWriMo. I also run a community-based literary reading series and attending poetry readings by others. But supporting national poetry month can be as simple as hanging a new poem outside of your office door, which always invites conversation. The Academy of American Poets makes it easy to participate by listing 30 Ways to Celebrate poetry month.

As someone who cannot have enough poetry in her life, my role is to bridge the disconnect between old ideas about poetry and what’s happening now. Poetry has become this dynamic, exciting exchange that brings people together in person or virtually. When people share their favorite poems they are sharing a part of themselves, which is something to be celebrated 365 days a year.

Whether you go down to your local elementary school or local library to volunteer your creative writing skills, host a writing workshop in your home, or take a poet to lunch — whatever you do, April is brimming with people who want to connect with others. In the United States, spring is just beginning. Nationally and internationally, we are ready discuss the things you just can’t find in the news (yes, that’s a William Carlos Williams reference). In my heart of hearts, I believe that poetry is one of the ties that binds us together. It records our history through emotion and words. Poetry is the oldest of traditions, and I can’t think of anything better to celebrate. (Well, Opening Day in baseball is pretty cool, too!)

So, how do you celebrate National Poetry Month? Do you write a poem a day? Do you read poetry or attend readings? Do you participate in open mike and slams? How’s it all working for you?

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13 comments to how do you: celebrate national poetry month?

  • i enjoyed this post.

    this is my first time doing the
    write one a day
    and to be honest
    it-is-kicking-my-butt.

    and at the same time,
    i am enjoying it.

    i have been reading other people’s words
    both in books and on the screen…
    i have taken home poems to share
    at supper
    with the kids…

  • Thanks!

    NaPoWriMo is hard. When I finish a poem, that just means I have a few hours before starting the next one. But it’s all good.

    I love that you share poetry with your kids. My kids are young, but I should try to find a poetry book for kids. Great idea!

  • I love the idea of writing a poem a day, but having just started a new job there’s no way it’s possible! But I am trying to write as many as possible – five so far this month which isn’t too bad considering!

    I’m also trying to read as many poems by other writers as I can – online as I don’t have my books to hand at the moment!

  • Yes; I am trying to write a poem a day; read more poems and am planning to participate in the poem in the pocket event:)

    This is my first time participating and I am enjoying it…

  • NaPoWriMo might be too hard for me! Though, in college, when I was a creative writing major, it was no big deal to write two or three poems a week. It’s hard to get one these days! It’s a challenge that at least has me writing!

    Read my latest here.

  • I have been writing a poem a day. I also have been listening to a lot of poems. There are podcasts out there. Some that I have found on iTunes are form Poet.org and the Poetry Foundation. I have been enjoying especially the ones from Poet.org because a bunch of them have interviews with poets and they give commentary on them. Most are between 3 and 10 minutes, short enough to listen to on way to or from work.

  • I’m participating in NaPoWriMo, a huge challenge, since I’ve been posting each one. Ach!

    Last weekend I went to a reading of the Best New Poets anthology, edited by Natasha Tretheway. Tretheway was there to present the three poets, who drove from Alabama and Mississippi to Atlanta to read for us. A great afternoon!

    I’m going to read some poems by Rumi and Hafiz in the yoga classes I teach, the same poem at the beginning and at the end of class.

    Maybe I’ll give my husband a poem to post outside his door at work, as you suggest. That would be fun for him.

  • I’ve been writing a poem a day, reading poems written by some of the other NaPoWriMo participants, re-reading writings of some of my favorite poets, entering some poems by favorite poets on my blog, and generally, just getting back ‘in touch’ with reading, and creating my own, poetry.

  • I write a poem almost everyday. Sometime I write more than one. However, I refuse to be a part of it. When it goes international, I might think of it. Till then, I am happy doing what I have been always doing. Write at my own pace and post when I wish.

    Poetry happens everyday for me and it is not constrained to the month of April. Reading as well as writing..

  • It is such a wierd thing, saying lets have a poetry month. i am not sure it does the cause of goood poetry much good, it certainly increases the amount. That may sound a little arrogant but I think just about everyone will agree that unless you are Scot Young or a poet of that calibre, the quality is going to fall away, people run out tricks, ideas, original thoughts, creative expression, generally speaking a good poem need to be worked on a lot, i guess people might learn something from the exercise in grasping, but why should all those mere exercises be posted, there is already so much bad poetry on the internet it is giving the good stuff a bad name.
    Sorry, but its it is my honest opinion.

  • I’ve never really written much poetry, biu when I was challenged to participate here I jumped in feet first. I am pleased to say that I have managed a poem each day and fully intend to carry on to the end. Unfortunately the hit rate on my site has taken a dive in the process.

    Although I went through the Participant registration, my request has been ignored, and despite leving a comment elsewhere on this site at the beginning of the month, I’ve received no visits from any of the names I see above me in this section!

    But I will persevere!

  • I’m a day behind but am determined to continue.

    Like others I find the quality of my poems has gone down but it’s still interesting to see what I think of to write about. I’m thinking of them as rough drafts, but, honestly, I know I’ll never go back to improve them.

    All year I make copies of and read a poem to my high school English students each day M-Th. At first they think I’m weird but after a few weeks they look forward to them. On Fridays I make copies of a song and play it on my computer while they follow along. Often, the kids themselves bring songs in for this. They look forward to it.

    Also, I’m having one of my classes pick a poem from their text book and “teach” the poem to the class.

    Every Tuesday and Thursday I begin my classes with about 20 minutes of journal writing where I give them a prompt and they write poems. I even give them some of the prompts from the internet groups. I always read mine to them and ask if any students want to share what they’ve written and am always pleased that several do. And am awed by thier poems!

    I’ve discovered that most kids secretly love poetry and don’t mind having it shoved in their faces.

  • I’m doing NaPoWriMo, a day behind, and frustrated that I’m short of time and running out of steam less than halfway through. But I’m going to keep going, because I need the exercise. Getting back into writing after a long time off, I sort of needed to do this in order to get back into the habit of writing. And while I’m losing quality as the month goes on, but nonetheless this is helping me make writing a regular practice.

    I’m also writing semi-regular posts to my poetry blog about poetry-related websites, calling attention to sites I’ve loved for awhile as well as new discoveries. And if I can remember, I’m doing poem-in-a-pocket day on the 17th. I’d like to attend some readings, but finishing grad school, my time is a bit limited. Maybe next year.

read write poem news

  • read write poem napowrimo anthology
    June 20, 2010 | 1:36 pm

    The Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Anthology is still in production. Selection, placement, layout and copyediting are taking longer than anticipated. Thank you for your patience. I hope to have the piece completed in July. For those who have emailed asking if they can be included, the May 7 deadline for submission of work stands. Those who met that deadline will be included. Please check the post on this site listing who I received submissions from by that date. If you submitted your work by the May 7 deadline in accordance with our guidelines and your name is not listed, send an email to info (at) readwritepoem (dot) org.

  • read write poem napowrimo anthology
    May 5, 2010 | 3:09 pm

    Remember that Friday* is the deadline for submitting work to the Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Anthology. Check out the guidelines for submission in the main column (to the left). On May 8, we’ll post a news item listing everyone we’ve received work from. If you submitted work and your name is not on that list, please let us know. Thanks!

    *I initially said “tomorrow,” but I meant to say “Friday.”

  • napowrimo congratulations, and a reminder
    April 24, 2010 | 12:05 pm

    It’s the final week of the Read Write Poem NaPoWriMo Challenge! Just 7 days left. With that, a reminder that Read Write Poem will culminate with the anthology featuring work from those who complete the challenge. A post with details for submitting to the anthology will be published May 1. Be sure you remove any information from the site that you want preserved — such as group content and personal messages. Those elements of the site will be removed May 1 as well. The main site will remain up as an archive.

  • ‘underlife’ tour at january gill o’neil’s blog
    April 20, 2010 | 8:11 pm

    January Gill O’Neil’s virtual book tour has moved to her site and is underway now. Check out the lineup at Poet Mom.

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