Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Promoting Poetry in Your Community

Children holding portable pockets containing poems
Children holding portable pockets containing poems
(image courtesy of Academy of American Poets)

From poetry readings, poetry festivals, and poetry slams to sidewalk poetry, publishing poetry collections, and poet recognition / awards, Wisconsin libraries do an AMAZING job of promoting a love of poetry within their communities.  And those efforts will be shifting into high gear as National Poetry Month approaches.

I've become so accustomed to April being National Poetry Month, that I somehow assumed it’s always been that way.  But it was actually founded by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 – just 19 years ago.  The Academy was inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), and founded National Poetry Month with these aims:

  • highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets
  • encourage the reading of poems
  • assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms
  • increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media
  • encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books
  • encourage support for poets and poetry
The website for the Academy of American Poets features a great list of “30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month.”   Number 30 on this list is to celebrate "Poem in Your Pocket Day" on April 30, 2015.  The idea is simple - share a short poem (that can fit into your pocket) with everyone you meet that day.  The "Poem in Your Pocket" page has a downloadable PDF of short public domain poems that your library can easily copy, trim, and distribute.  The photo above shows children with portable pockets (made from old jeans) that contain poems.

Number nine on the “30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month” list is to learn more about poets in your state.  Wisconsin has had a formal poet laureate program since 2000.  Our current (2015 – 2016) Poet Laureate is Kimberly Blaeser, a Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee where she teaches Creative Writing, Native American Literature, and American Nature Writing.  The Wisconsin Poet Laureate page contains information on how to schedule Kimberly for a visit to your library or community.

Enjoy the month of April and share a poem.

Written by:
Denise Anton Wright, Public Library Development