Express Yourself: Celebrate National Poetry Month

O Captain! My Captain! April is National Poetry Month. Established in 1996, the occasion represents an opportunity for poets and poetry lovers of all persuasions to express their love of verse. Learn how you can join this literary affair.

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By Douglas Fehlen

national poetry month 2011

Celebrating Verse

Poets are often thought to be a relatively subdued bunch who don't necessarily enjoy bringing attention to themselves. While this stereotype of bookish quietude doesn't reflect many aspects or variations of the craft (poetry slam, anyone?), it is pervasive among the public.

This fact makes National Poetry Month an especially important event. The intent of this occasion is to raise the visibility of poets, poetic works and our country's heritage of fine verse. The month-long fete is the brainchild of the Academy of American Poets, a group that supports artists and their craft through public campaigns and events.

During National Poetry Month, libraries, bookstores, publishers, schools and (of course) poets commingle at readings, workshops and literary festivals. Far from being stuffy or pretentious, these happenings are welcoming toward those who may not consider themselves the most literary minded. The goal is to enhance poetry's profile in our culture and make clear that it is a craft we can all share and celebrate.

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Events Aplenty

The Academy of American Poets features a full calendar of activities for National Poetry Month. In case you're concerned that you won't be able to get to an event before the end of the month, don't worry: You can find activity listings for the rest of the year as well. The organization also provides a list of 30 great ideas for celebrating poetry during April or at any other time of the year. Here are just a handful:

Read poetry. This may be most obvious suggestion, but it is also the most important. Keep a passion for poetry alive inside you by regularly reading verse from old favorites and new poets. In a fast-paced world, the thoughtful reflections of another can be the perfect antidote to feelings of stress.

Form a poetry reading group. Book clubs are pretty common these days, but fiction and nonfiction titles tend to dominate discussions. Switch things up by bringing together friends for evenings of poetry. Read poems aloud and share ideas about what works mean.

Share poetry with loved ones. Does a family member or friend have a birthday coming up? Maybe you and a significant other will soon share an important anniversary. Show how you feel about important people in your life by giving the gift of poetry.

Share poetry with strangers. Already give poetry to loved ones? Take sharing a step further by providing poems to people you don't know. How? You might leave a book of poetry in an airport lounge, on the subway or anywhere else someone will find the treasure.

Organize a reading. There is something transformative about hearing poetry read aloud. Bring that pleasure to the masses by staging a poetry reading. You might consider approaching coffee shops, libraries or bookstores about housing events.

Need to find a poetry fix online? Check out these blogs celebrating verse.

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