The Academy of American Poets launched National Poetry Month in April 1996 to remind us of how important poets and poetry are to our culture. Over time, the event has arguably become one of the largest literary celebrations in the world, involving poets and poetry lovers from all walks of life, not least of all, students, teachers, and librarians.
Edgar Allan Poe by El Humilde Fotero del Pánico. Credit courtesy Creative Commons and flickr.
A poem can express joy when other words seem inadequate. Reading and sharing poems can also provide solace and strength in uncertain times, such as the present. Throughout this April and beyond, the Academy of American Poets is offering a myriad of ways to read and share poems in the virtual classroom and online at home. Among them is Poem-a-Day, the original and only daily digital poetry series. Launched in 2006, it features over 200 new, previously unpublished, poems each year. On weekdays, the poems are accompanied by author commentary. On weekends, the series highlights classic poems. You may sign up for the Poem-a-Day newsletter and others at poets.org.
You may consult April Databases: National Poetry Month for select resources that offer both primary source material, literary criticism, and the teaching of poetry at all levels. In recognition of National Poetry Month 2020, we are specifically highlighting the Columbia Granger's World of Poetry®. As summarized in CLIO, this resource offers an:
Index to poetry, including full-text of 13,000 poems and 250,000 poem citations. This online version includes the contents of the following works: Columbia Granger's index to poetry in anthologies (eds. 8-11), Columbia Granger's index to poetry in collected and selected works, Columbia Granger's guide to poetry anthologies (2nd ed.), Columbia Granger's dictionary of poetry quotations, Classic hundred poems, as well as new content not published previously in print.
Among the features I appreciate most in Columbia Granger's World of Poetry® are the:
- Subject search. Just as an example, there are over 1400 poems with the subject 'Solitude.'
- History & Criticism. Here, I found a fascinating profile of Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849), who happened to have lived briefly in a farmhouse (long gone) on what is now my city block. This is where, in 1844, he may have finished the famous poem, 'The Raven.’
- Commentaries. According to the entry about Poe’s last poem, ‘Annabel Lee’ (1849), this work is the single most important ancestor of Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita. Although clearly not autobiographical, many have related the mood of Poe’s poem about tragic young love in a kingdom by the sea to his grief over the early death of his wife, Virginia.
- Listening Room. The greatest treasure of all, I could hear the poem recited, to my heart’s content.
Columbia Granger’s World of Poetry’s homepage features a poem, a biography of the poet, and poetry trivia. Be on the lookout for the winners of the Columbia Granger's World of Poetry® Student Poetry Contest, whose poems will be published on the website May 4-6, 2020, with an honorable mention poem published on May 7.
We encourage you and your students to not only read a poem, but to write one as well. All through the month of April, WNYC News has been inviting people to write and share their own poems in honor of National Poetry Month. Each week they’ve introduced a new prompt, one that both acknowledges what’s happening in the world, while still open to interpretation. The final poetry prompt, through the end of April is: "Lessons learned,“ no matter whether they are big, small, societal, or personal. Share your “lessons learned” poem on Twitter/Instagram using #PAUSEpoetry or email firstname.lastname@example.org, along with your name and neighborhood. Be sure to mention whether you’re okay with it being shared; WNYC may wish to read your poem on the air or post it online. Also: Thursday April 30 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. Consider making a #pocketpoem to share!