In addition to all the other joys of springtime, April is also National Poetry Month. Initiated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, the international event has become the world’s largest literary celebration with the goal to recognize poetry’s integral role in our culture.
As a middle school literature teacher, I found the beauty of spring could bring out the poet in the most unlikely students. Even if poetry has never been your thing, this might be your chance to see what all the fuss is about. Here are five specific ways you can celebrate National Poetry Month.
1. Start off the month by reading this light-hearted love poem by Mortimer Collins called The First of April. It’s a favorite of mine because my late parents actually tied the knot on April Fool’s Day 62 years ago.
Now if to be an April-fool
Is to delight in the song of the thrush,
To long for the swallow in air’s blue hollow,
And the nightingale’s riotous music-gush,
And to paint a vision of cities Elysian
Out away in the sunset-flush –
Then I grasp my flagon and swear thereby,
We are April-fools, my Love and I.
2. Get a free 2023 National Poetry Month poster, seen above. You can download it or order yours at poets.org. This year’s poster was designed by Marc Brown, creator of Arthur books and television series. The poster features this important line from a poem written by current Poet Laureate Ada Limón, “…we were all meant for something.”
3. Check out a book of poetry from the library, buy a new book or pull a dusty one from your own bookshelf, and read a poem every day this month. A favorite poetry book on my own shelf is titled Poems That Will Change Your Life by Fall River Press. My copy naturally opens to a dog-eared page with this beauty by Emily Dickinson titled If I Can Stop One Heart From Breaking.
If I can stop one heart from breaking,
I shall not live in vain;
If I can ease one life the aching,
Or cool one pain,
Or help one fainting robin
Into his nest again,
I shall not live in vain.
4. Celebrate Earth Day on Saturday, April 22 by going outside and reading or writing poetry inspired by nature. There’s nothing like being outside and reading a poetic verse like this from Auguries of Innocence by William Blake.
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palms of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
5. Participate in Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day on April 27. This event takes place every year during National Poetry Month. The idea is simple. Find a poem you love and carry it in your pocket to read yourself or share with family, friends and even strangers. You can even share it on social media using the hashtag #PocketPoem. Choosing a poem meaningful enough to carry with us is an exercise in itself. For years, I posted on my classroom door this poem by Langston Hughes called The Dream Keeper.
Bring me all of your dreams, you dreamers
Bring me all of your heart melodies
That I may wrap them in a blue cloud-cloth
Away from the too-rough fingers of the world.
Each time I entered my classroom, the poem reminded me of my desire to educate and nurture students with tender hearts filled with hopeful dreams. Though I am retired now, the poem still speaks to me, so it remains tucked away in my purse pocket. It is a message I celebrate during National Poetry Month, and always.§
“Poetry, like jazz, is one of those dazzling diamonds of creative industry that help human beings make sense out of the comedies and tragedies that contextualize our lives.”
~ Aberjhani, American historian
Note to Subscribers ~ April 23 will be my last post on The Simple Swan. As I have often written about the changing seasons, I have been slow to realize I’ve entered a new season in my own life. It is a season of being more than doing, listening more than speaking, learning more than teaching, reading more than writing. Thank you for your loyal support. Love, Alicia
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