Celebrate National Poetry Month


April is National Poetry Month, and there’s lots of great ways to celebrate! Organized by the  Academy of American Poets to raise awareness and appreciation of verse in the United States, since 1996 this month long observance is a great way to exercise a love of language. Here are a few ideas on how to celebrate National Poetry in your own way. Some are solitary activities, some are good with the family, and some are even online.

One of the easiest and most engaging is book spine poetry. Simply look at your bookcase at the titles you have and line up the words in a way that appeals to your poetic sensibilities. Here’s one I made:

 

After you've "written" your book spine poetry, share a picture on your social media or send to a friend challenging them and seeing what they come up with.

 

Another great way that almost anyone can get into poetry is through writing haikus. This 3 line poetic form originating in Japan consists of 5 syllables, 7 syllables, and 5 syllables. I wrote the following while working from home:

 

Squirrels play outside

Neighbor boy plays basketball

Yet I work indoors

 

NPR’s Life Kit podcast did a story about writing writing haikus during the times of COVID-19, check it out here: https://www.npr.org/2020/04/05/826623641/processing-social-distancing-with-haiku This was one I particularly enjoyed:

 

A great way to explore words and visual art is by creating black out poetry. This is essentially what it would look like if the CIA were writing poetry. First an example:

 

 

-The first step is to grab some text, newspapers work great, you could take a book you’ve been intending on getting rid of, or even a piece of junk mail

-Look at the words without really noticing the meaning of them strung together. Circle words of phrases that strike you as interesting

-Once you’ve circled a good amount of text see if there’s a way that they can be arranged top to bottom

-After you’ve found your word and phrase combinations that fit your poetic voice you can start blacking out the rest of the text to reveal your poem

-You can black things out and get creative in how you do so creating a design as in these examples

 

 

 

Celebrate poetry month and Spring with sidewalk chalk poetry. The words can be your own, or they can be someone else’s.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Besides getting you outside enjoying language you get to share with your community. No sidewalk or chalk? Write something on a piece of paper and stick it on the door for the mail person to enjoy.

 

Finally to put a capstone on poetry month is Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 30th. I like this one because you can really personalize it to what feels right to you or you can use it as an opportunity to share with others. I have a short inspirational poem (When Grapes Turn to Wine by Rumi as translated by Robert Bly) saved in my phone that I look at occasionally when I’m hit with the feels:

 

When grapes turn

to wine, they long for our ability to change.

 

When stars wheel

around the North Pole,

they are longing for our growing consciousness.

 

Wine got drunk with us,

not the other way.

The body developed out of us, not we from it.

 

We are bees,

and our body is a honeycomb.

We made

the body, cell by cell we made it.

 

Other ways to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket day is by putting a poem in someone in your house’s wallet. I used to do this to my dad when I was kid and later found out how much it meant to him. Or serve your family dinner with a hand written poem next to their plate.

 

The number of ways to celebrate poetry month are numerous and varied to be sure and above are just a few suggestions that I enjoy, but there are many more to be found online. Here are some of my favorites.

 

The New York Times has a great gathering of links:

https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/arts/national-poetry-month-coronavirus.html

 

Other ideas to celebrate from the Academy of American Poets:

https://poets.org/national-poetry-month

 

A wealth of information for all levels from the Poetry Foundation, including glossary of terms:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/learn

 

Lesson plans and activities for education from ReadWriteThink.org

http://www.readwritethink.org/classroom-resources/calendar-activities/april-national-poetry-month-20478.html

 

More educational activities from ReadingRockets.org

https://www.readingrockets.org/calendar/poetry

 

The library of course has a great number of poetry books available as eBooks or eAudio, including two I recently recommended Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson and Aimless Love by Billy Collins. Whatever you do, find a way to enjoy National Poetry Month this April.

 

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