Thursday, April 23, 2009

Support Your Local Poet


It’s National Poetry Month! Who knew? And even those who did probably wonder what that means.
In 1996, the Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month as a means of highlighting the legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets, introducing more Americans to the pleasures of poetry, bringing poets and poetry to the public, making poetry a more significant part of school curricula, increasing attention paid to poetry by the media, encouraging publication and distribution of poetry, and increasing philanthropic support for poets and poetry.
One way to tell when a cause is “endangered” is when it is given its own month as a period for bringing more attention to it. Think about it, there is no National Baseball Month, National Hollywood Celebrity Month, National Automobile Month, or National American Idol Month. Those “causes” are so much in the forefront of the American mind that we don’t need a designated month to remind us to pay attention to them. Such designations are reserved for minorities, the disempowered, or causes to which too little attention is paid. Poetry, for example, shares its National Month designation with the causes of Community Service, Sexual Assault Awareness, Soy Foods, Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and Financial Literacy (boy does that one need greater exposure these days).
How well these designations work depends entirely upon what is done as a result of them. In the case of poetry, schools, organizations, journals, and writers use the month as a “rallying point” for poetry. They send out mass mailings, arrange live and online programs, and schedule readings, signings, and special educational opportunities. The best source for ideas on how to participate is the Academy of American Poets website at There you’ll find lesson plans for teaching poetry, tip sheets for setting up displays and programs at libraries and bookstores, and a list of national and local events. Information is also available on the websites of state and local poetry support organizations like the North Carolina Writer’s Network ( and the North Carolina Poetry Society (
Here is a list of ways almost anyone can participate in National Poetry Month:
• Buy a book of poetry. Main Street Rag Publishers ( out of Charlotte publishes about 100 books of poems each year, many of them by local and state authors. Many MSR titles are available locally at Taste Full Beans Coffeehouse in downtown Hickory.
• Subscribe to a poetry journal or read one online. NC journals publishing poetry include Main Street Rag, Dead Mule, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Asheville Poetry Review, Cave Wall, Carolina Quarterly, North Carolina Literary Quarterly, The Sun, Iodine, Cold Mountain Review, and Greensboro Review. Nearly all of them have websites that make ordering a subscription easy to do.
• Take a class. Creative writing classes are offered at CVCC and Lenoir Rhyne and occasionally at local libraries.
• Attend a reading. Poetry Hickory features two published poets and three Open Mic poets at 6:30 on the first Tuesday of each month at Taste Full Beans. A complete schedule is available at
• Support an organization by making a donation or joining. Nearly all poetry journals and reading series are non-profits and can benefit from financial support. Organizations like NCWN, NCPS, and the Poetry Council of NC are also non-profits that attempt to help writers and audiences connect.
• Finally, develop a greater interest in poetry by reading, writing, and talking about poetry.
According to one often-quoted poem, “April is the cruelest.” Hopefully, participating in
National Poetry Month, increasing your own appreciation of poetry, and helping others develop their taste for poetry as well can help lessen the negative effects T. S. Eliot wrote of.

1 comment:

  1. The month has grown stronger each year, well it seems that way to me. Of course I work as a tech.teacher in a few elementary schools and the majority of the teachers plan a month-load of lessons with poetry. I do a good share in the "publishing" phase of the writing process with the classes. Didn't know it just began in '96. Thanks for all the websites and ideas. Way too much on the Web. All the best-LL