Celebrating Poetry Month

From Lee Baird, Director of Literary Arts and Grants Analysis –

The 18th-century French priest and poet Joseph Roux believed that “Poetry is truth in its Sunday Clothes.” While that thought conveys the elegant thought process and refined language of poetry, something about it doesn’t sit well with me. When I think “Sunday clothes,” I think of formality, special occasion, stiffness maybe. But poetry needn’t be formal or stiff and certainly does not need a special event to be celebrated.

While National Poetry Month may not be strictly necessary, it is nonetheless a fantastic excuse to recognize one of the most expressive forms of art to touch the human spirit. The Academy of American Poets conceived national Poetry Month – an organization that includes booksellers, librarians, teachers, publishers, poets and literary associations and we have been celebrating it every April since 1996.

I am not naïve enough to believe that poetry is an integral part of most people’s daily lives, nor does it have to be. Still, I do think that nearly everyone likely has at least a poem or two that speaks to them, holds a special meaning for them or with which they strongly identify. If there is one, I bet there are more, so I think one of the best ways to celebrate National Poetry Month is simply to seek out more of those poets and poems that connect with you. Libraries and bookstores are a great place to start, but you needn’t even leave home.

The Poetry Foundation’s website has an extensive collection of poems to browse. Their monthly magazine, Poetry, is a fantastic source for contemporary poetry as are the many poetry journals published by universities. Another great way to celebrate National Poetry Month is to memorize a poem and if you are so moved, share it with others or chalk a poem on a sidewalk. With that one, you should probably choose the time and place carefully. These are just a couple of ideas. has several other ways to celebrate the month and make poetry a part of your life. Finally a few quick poetry facts:

• The most popular poetry form in the world is the Haiku
• The longest poem in the world is the Indian epic Mahabharata
• The shortest poem is ‘The Shortest and Sweetest of Songs’ by George MacDonald. It has just two words – “Come Home.”
• The oldest poem is the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh

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