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  • Writer's pictureNora Curry

National Poetry Month

(National Poetry Month poster designed by Brooklyn, NY high school senior Bao Lu)

This April marks the 25th annual celebration of National Poetry Month, which began in 1996 through the work of the Academy of American Poets, an organization that remains at the forefront of poetry world to this day and continues as the go-to hub for the month-long celebration. This year, in addition to providing ample resources for engaging with poetry at all ages, offering poems to carry on Poem in Your Pocket day (April 29th), hosting the Dear Poet Project, and making wonderful suggestions for 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month online and at home, the Academy will hosts its Poetry and the Creative Mind gala virtually for the first time on April 29th.

While there have long been many poetry resources available online, one upshot of the pandemic is that the sharing of poetry on a virtual platform has become even more widespread. Read on for some suggestions for exploring poetry from home this April, and with the warmer weather, perhaps you can memorize a poem or grab a book from our collection so you can enjoy the wonder of poetry and the wonder of the outdoors simultaneously. Of course this list is just the tip of the iceberg, and many poetry journals and individual poets feature their work online as well. There are truly no ends to the reach of poetry.

The reason we celebrate National Poetry Month is of course that poems don't exist in a vacuum; they have the power to resonate with us and truly affect us. The Favorite Poem Project, begun by poet Robert Pinsky in 1998, is a treasure trove of people from across the country and from all walks of life reciting their favorite poems. There's nothing like hearing poets read their own work... but there is something distinctly magnificent about hearing someone say the words of a poem that have nestled a way into their heart and remained present over the years. Check out the above link for the video collection. A personal favorite of mine below:

On Friday mornings, Maine Poet Laureate Stuart Kestenbaum hosts Poems From Here on Maine Public Radio. Each week, he reads the work of a regional poet. The program feels like a gift to the immensely rich poetry microcosm in Maine, the perfect vehicle for discovery of these voices among us.

It's hard to summarize the grand scope of the Poetry Foundation! To take a stab: the independent literary organization publishes POETRY magazine, has a seemingly infinite online archive of poetry, resources for learning about poetry terms and movements, poet biographies, articles and other features, hosts both in-person and virtual programs, and is home to the Poetry Foundation Library, which I have dreams of getting lost inside...

The website of the Academy of American Poets features a treasure trove of browsable and searchable poems, teacher resources, poet biographies, community resources, and more. It is also the go-to hub for National Poetry Month with graphics, poems for Poem in Your Pocket Day, events, and projects. One of the most informative and celebratory resources for poetry on the internet.

A joint effort of the University of Michigan Humanities Text Initiative and the University of Michigan Press, the American Verse Project is an online archive that makes available electronic versions of books of poetry published before 1920.

The Poetry Archive, a UK nonprofit that also has a children's iteration, is home to recordings of poet's reading their own work. In their own words: "When a poet dies without making a recording, a precious resource is lost for ever and as time goes by that loss is felt more and more keenly. By recording poets reading their own work, The Poetry Archive preserves for future generations uniquely valuable voices which might otherwise be lost."

An organization based in Washington, D.C., Split This Rock articulates its mission as such: Split This Rock cultivates, teaches, and celebrates poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. It calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets... Split This Rock explores and celebrates the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world." With programs, resources, and a poetry database, Split This Rock marries poetry with social justice, a quite natural pairing, at a time when it has perhaps never felt more relevant.

The title pretty much sums it up! Poetry Daily's website features a different poem each day, particularly delightful because many are from poets not widely known. The site also has a few special features, including a "What Sparks Poetry," wherein poets share about what inspires their writing.

Poetry International Archives features poetry from around the world, searchable by poet, poem, and country. It's a wonderful resource for exploring the work of poets from other parts of the world.

read poetry is an online community designed to celebrate poetry and encourage readers and writers of the craft. It features the work of poets, information about new poetry releases, interviews with poets, poetry prompts, a blog, and many lists (like "5 Mary Oliver Poems for Grieving Hearts," "5 Phenomenal YA Poetry Recommendations," and "Active Poetry: 4 Poetry and Workout Pairings") and reflective articles, like the recent "A Year of Poetry in Lockdown." Fun to peruse and discover at your leisure.

The 92nd Street Y in New York City has long been host to fantastic literary events. The Poetry Center Online features archival recordings from the site's programs over the years.

The University of Arizona Poetry Center has hosted a reading series since 1963 and shares an audiovisual archive of the featured poets, covering quite a diverse range.

A similar premise to the Favorite Poem Project, the Interesting People Reading Poetry podcast, hosted by Andy and Brendan Stermer, features people reading a favorite poem and sharing about what it means to him. They explain: "With their favorite poem for a prompt, our guests have explored questions including: ​What is the meaning of home to a refugee?; What is God and what does God feel like?​;How can poetry save science from itself?; Why should we not steal the brown pills from granny’s medicine cabinet?" Each episode is about 15-20 minutes and is available for listening on their site.

Kevin Young hosts this renowned podcasts that features conversations and readings with a wide variety of poets. Recent guests include Margaret Atwood, Arthur Sze, and Poet Laureate Joy Harjo.

VS (podcast)

Poets Danez Smith and Franny Choi host this Poetry Foundation podcast. Episodes air bi-weekly, and you can access them as both recordings and transcripts. The premise is that "poets confront the ideas that move them" in enlivening and thought-provoking conversations.

The Slowdown (podcast)

Former Poet Laureate Tracy K. Smith hosts this podcast, which features a daily poem and "delivers a different way to see the world – through poetry."

Poem Talk (podcast)

Al Filreis hosts rotating guests to discuss a single poem on each episode of this Poetry Foundation podcast. A great way to go in depth, with nearly 200 archived episodes available for listening.

If you have any ideas of your own for how to celebrate National Poetry Month, share them with us!

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