National Poetry Month is here

Sam Kern, Features Editor

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    For those that aren’t aware, April is National Poetry Month, which takes place all month long. It was organized by the Academy of American Poets and continues to gain awareness of poetry even today. It has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

     National Poetry Month was inspired by the success of Black History Month, which is held each February, and Women’s History Month, which is held in March. In 1995, the Academy of American Poets gathered a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets and teachers to discuss the need of another month long holiday, but in this one, they wanted to celebrate poetry. The first National Poetry Month was held in 1996.

     In 1998, the Academy of American Poets joined the American Poetry & Literacy Project to distribute 100,000 free books of poetry from New York to California during National Poetry Month. On April 22, President Clinton and the First Lady hosted a gala at the White House that featured Poets Laureate Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass and Rita Dove.

     For National Poetry Month in 2001, the Academy of American Poets invited people to vote for poets they most wanted to have on a postage stamp. More than 10,000 people cast ballots, with Langston Hughes receiving the most votes. The vote tally was sent to the United States Postal Service, which issued a stamp with Langston Hughes in January of 2002.

     There are different events that have transpired from the national month long event. In 2006, the Academy of American Poets launched Poem-a-Day, publishing one new poem on its website, Poets.org, each day during the month-long celebration. Poem-a-Day is now a daily, year-long series, which has been syndicated by King Features.

     In 2012, the Academy of American Poets launched the Dear Poet project, which invites students to read and write poems during National Poetry Month, some of which are published on Poets.org. The project is accompanied by a lesson plan offered to K-12 teachers for free.

     Each year, a special poster is commissioned by the Academy of American Poets for National Poetry Month, with almost 150,000 copies distributed to schools, libraries and community centers for free. Those books were an immense help to those areas that needed them, and kids of all ages could enjoy new books without working about the cost for them.

     Numerous books and poetry compilations have been published acknowledging National Poetry Month, such as “The Knopf National Poetry Month Collection” by Random House and “Celebrating National Poetry Month” by children’s book author and poet Bruce Larkin. Because of these writers and so many others, the month long holiday of poetry continues to gain awareness and help everyone in America learn the power of not just poetry, but reading in general.