In my role as a teacher (and not just a poet), I have always looked forward to April, a chance to celebrate National Poetry Month, when I can encourage my students not just to study poetry but to enjoy it as well. Approaching April this year, I look forward to my fourth year (can that be right?) as a participant in the Poetic Asides Poem-A-Day Challenge, I realize that the activities we enjoy can be just as much fun for others. Sure, the poet’s life can be a lonely life, but April gives us all license to spread the joy.
Here are a few ideas for your celebration:
- Stage a Favorite Poem Project event like those Robert Pinsky piloted during his tenure as the U.S. Poet Laureate. The scale is up to you–a few friends or a community-wide gathering–but join others in presenting your favorite poem, introducing it very briefly by explaining why it is your favorite, then reading it.
- Poem in a Bottle. Edward Hirsch explained that finding just the right poem is like a message in a bottle. Whether in a local coffee shop or art gallery, your workplace, or classroom, join others in finding just such a poem, one that either seems to speak to you directly or one that seems to represent your message to the world, print it attractively, then roll it slightly so that it will fit in a clear bottle, facing outward, the bottle serving as a frame. Line the bottles together in a display. How you come up with a suitable empty bottle is up to you!
- Mother’s Day sells cards and roses, Father’s Day sells neckties, and Valentine’s Day sells roses and chocolate. Should April be a perfect marketing opportunity for poetry books? Sure you could get one of the standards, such as Leaves of Grass or One Hundred and One Famous Poems, but why not support a local–or at least living–poet? Attend a local poetry reading in your area and buy a chapbook from one of the readers. Even better buy at least two. Give one away as a NPM gift. Then you will have someone to talk with you about the poems you read there.
- Skim the poetry shelves–okay, I’m probably being optimistic–or shelf at your local bookstore, checking out what is new. Don’t see anything new? Ask the manager where to find the books by local and regional poets. React with shock and dismay if he or she confesses there are none. If you do find them, be sure to thank the manager–and even the checkout clerks. Oh yes, buy one. Buy two. (See above.)
- Suggest that your book club choose a book of poetry. Be prepared with titles and justification. If the group won’t go along with poetry as the sole selection for the month, suggest a pairing of fiction and poetry. Bring an example or two of poetry books you love. Read one or two poems to whet the appetite.
- Spread poetry everywhere. Print out copies of poems that would be fun for general enjoyment and post them where people go: Inside the restroom stalls on the doors, over the water fountains, in train stations, on subways. For extra fun, try to find poems that fit your location (with reason!).
- Do you have school-age children? Consider sending a teacher NPM gift (a book of poetry, of course) or card (poem inside). Do this early in the month in the hopes of inspiring poetry in the classroom.
- Get out those Magnetic Poetry kits and put them in places where you and those around you can engage in creative play. Low-tech iPad poetry idea: Put your magnetic words in a small cookie tin for your commute, and use the inside of the top as your screen. High-tech alternative, check out the virtual magnetic poetry kits online that offer the click-and-drag options.
- Write the local paper editor asking for more poetry–on the book pages or wherever it will fit. Ted Kooser’s American Life in Poetry is available free to newspapers.
- Consider poetic tweets and Facebook posts every day in April.
- And, of course, tune in to Poetic Asides, writing your poems for each day’s prompts and responding to the other poems posted there. Remember, it doesn’t have to be a lonely life.
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Want another great idea for celebrating National Poetry Month?
Try submitting your poems with the help of the 2011 Poet’s Market, edited by Robert Lee Brewer. This essential desk reference is loaded with poetry publishing opportunities and articles on the craft and business of poeming.