Bring the beat to your community during National Poetry Month
Published: February 22, 2007
|Most poets, whether they endorse the idea or not, know the same month that holds William Shakespeare's generally agreed-upon birthday is the official celebratory month for poetry. |
According to the Web site for the Academy of American Poets, the April designation for the United States began in 1996, when the academy brought various interests together to celebrate "poetry and its vital place in American culture."
Not all poets think this is such a good idea. In 1999, poet and essayist Charles Bernstein bemoaned the fact we need a special month for poetry. He makes the case in an essay at the University of Chicago Press Web site (see link below) that many official celebrations bring a lesser kind of verse to the masses, dodging edgy poetry in the interest of accessibility. For him, poetry is a never-ending celebration.
For many of us, however, a month dedicated to celebrating something we love is a good thing. For some of us who've pounded America's pavement doing poetry readings, it's obvious that connecting poetry with people helps all poets.
For those who don't write poetry, there's certainly a place for verse amid the rigors of daily life. American journalist W. Thomas Smith Jr. says poetry definitely has a place in our lives. "Poetry is indeed relevant to the enrichment of our daily lives," he says. "Poetry, like art and music, is remembered. We recall paintings we saw as a child, as well as lyrics, tunes, and the strains of certain instruments we heard. It's the same with poetic lines and stanzas. In well-written prose we may remember the story, sometimes a perfect line or two. In well-written poetry, however, we always remember the actual words and how they were used." Smith is a South Carolina author of six books whose articles have appeared in publications like USA Today and U.S. News and World Report.
Here in Jacksonville, Fla., we've hosted different events over the years. We've held the ever-popular open-mike sessions at bookstores and bistros. One year, we left attractively printed poems around our city in a celebration we called "Random Acts of Poetry." We've also organized traditional readings and workshops.
The Academy of American Poets has some information about this year's celebration posted at its Web site. There's a notice about the annual poster teachers may order for schools.
As I searched for information about organized events, I learned that the League of Canadian Poets already has a lot of plans. There's even a printable poster you can download. The real surprise comes in the form of funding for events. Poets can submit a reading proposal to apply for funds.
Diane Selkirk, an independent writer who lives in Vancouver, says Canadians are inclusive when it comes to poetry. "Poetry is included in our general culture, and there is a passionate subculture--spoken word happens at most folk festivals. There are several coffee houses in my neighborhood that have regular poetry slams." Selkirk writes for newspapers, travel, parenting and in-flight magazines. She says that in Canada, poetry is a "relatively mainstream genre."
This year, I'm hoping you'll join me in bringing a poetry beat to your own community. There's a simple way to participate.
Help celebrate National Poetry Month by organizing a reading in your community.
Post details about your reading on our special Poetry Beat discussion thread.
We'll feature selected events in a future column and do a wrap-up once April ends.
Regardless of where in this world you live, we welcome your information. In a world where sharing information can help us understand other cultures, it's always a good thing to build a bridge. There's no better bridge between cultures or individuals than poetry.
--Feb. 6, 2007
"Against National Poetry Month as Such," an essay by Charles Bernstein at the University of Chicago Press
Information about National Poetry Month at the Academy of American Poets
Details about poetry month plans at the League of Canadian Poets
Coming Feb. 20: A feature on Adam Cohen, publisher, and Jendi Reiter, editor, of Poetry Contest Insider at Winning Writers. See how fair contests and publishing opportunities may help you connect with readers.
--Posted Feb. 22, 2007
Kay B. Day is a poet and freelance correspondent living in Jacksonville, Fla. Her articles and poems appear in The Christian Science Monitor and The Florida Times Union. She is a stringer for UPI. Her collection A Poetry Break won several awards, including top poetry book from the Florida Writers' Association. Web: www.kayday.com.
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