10 Ways To Celebrate National Poetry Month This Year
Poetry lovers — it’s that time of year again! April marks the 21st annual National Poetry Month, a month-long celebration of poetry and the fabulous folks who read it, write it, publish it, teach it in their classrooms, carve it into bathroom doors, spray paint it onto the sides of buildings, and commit all kinds of other essential acts that get poetry out into the world. Founded in 1996 and inspired by February’s Black History Month and March’s Women’s History Month, National Poetry Month was designed to celebrate the history and legacy of American poetry; encourage readers in the United States and all over the world to add a little (or a lot) more poetry to their bookshelves; educate emerging readers and writers on all things poetic; and to encourage worldwide support (financial and otherwise) for poets, poetry, publishing, and the arts. And, according to Poets.org, National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world — so you know you don’t want to miss it.
Are you ready to totally up your poetry game this year? Then read on — because there are tons of ways to celebrate National Poetry Month, and I’ve detailed a few of them for you below. Here are 10 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month this year.
1Read More Poetry
Uh, duh. This one goes without saying. But seriously, do read more poetry — and this month, consider taking your poetry where it’s never gone before. Usually read the classics? Dive into the work of some modern writers. Love experimental verse? Add some Shakespeare to your TBR pile this month instead. Whatever you do, be sure to celebrate National Poetry Month by expanding your own poetic horizons, whatever that means for you and your shelves.
2Read More Diverse Poets
You’re already reading more poetry this month (see above.) Take that increase of verse in your life one step further by adding the voices (and verses) of more diverse poets to your bookshelves. Not to pat ourselves on the back or anything, but Bustle is just one great online resource for discovering new, diverse, marginalized, and underrepresented poets and poetry collections (and as you’re already here, you might as well stick around.) Check out this list of poetry collections by poets of color, this collection of poets affected by the Trump travel ban, this list of feminist poetry collections, or these protest poets.
3Sign Up For Poem-A-Day
Another easy one: sign up to have your daily dose of poetry delivered directly to your inbox, every single day. Run by Poets.org, Poem-a-Day is a daily digital poetry series that features over 200 new and/or previously unpublished poems, written by contemporary poets. (The site also sends you work by your favorite classic poets on the weekend.) At the totally affordable cost of, um, free, you really can’t pass this one up.
4Make Your Next Book Club Pick A Poetry Collection
Poetry is not typically my go-to for a book-club-approved read. But not only is National Poetry Month the perfect time to get all your bookish besties on board for some extra poetry reading, there are also some poetry collections that are more book-club-friendly than others. Jimmy Santiago Baca’s Healing Earthquakes, for example, is a novel written in poetic verse. Tracy K. Smith’s Ordinary Light is a gorgeous poetry-influenced memoir. And, of course, there are tons of feminist poets (Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich, Sylvia Plath, Anne Waldman) who are definitely worthy of a little book club love.
5Write More Poetry
Consider penning some of your own poems this National Poetry Month — even if you never show them to anybody, and they remain hidden away in some secret corner of your desk for all eternity, you’ll still know they're there. You might even surprise yourself and discover some poetry skills you never knew you had. Stuck for an idea? You can find tons of writing prompts online, perfect for getting those poetic juices flowing. Check out the Poetry Prompts Tumblr, Robert Lee Brewer’s amazing archive of poetry prompts for Writer’s Digest, or this great list of poetry prompts from poet, writer, and editor Kelli Russell Agodon.
6Host (Or Attend) A Poetry Reading
If the idea of hosting a poetry reading invokes images of Gertrude Stein-style literary salons or Allen Ginsberg reading from Howl at City Lights Books, think again — organizing your own poetry reading doesn’t have to be nearly as complicated as all that. I’ll let you in on a little secret: all you really need to host a poetry reading is some great poetry, a couple folks willing to read it, and a handful of people (or hey, even one fellow poetry lover will do) to listen. A bottle of wine or two and some strategically dim lighting, and you’re pretty much set.
7Join A Poetry Subscription Service
I love book box subscriptions as much as the next bibliophile — but did you know there are also poetry subscription services too? The Rumpus Poetry Book Club is just one, offering members a new, not-yet-released poetry collection each month, and an invitation to a moderated web chat with the poet after reading their collection. FIVE monthly poetry magazine is another, featuring five poets per issue along with three to five of their poems. Both — and others — are perfect for discovering poets that might not otherwise have made it onto your shelves.
8Support A Local Or Indie Poet Or Poetry Magazine
Although poets are often on the bottom of the book marketing totem pole, it doesn’t mean they’re not just as deserving of love as other writers. Supporting a local or indie poet or poetry magazine is a great way to celebrate National Poetry Month, while doing your part to keep poetry alive and funded. Start by heading over to Poets.org and checking out their Poetry Near You page, which can help you discover poetry events within up to 200 miles of wherever you are.
9Take Yourself On A Poetry-Inspired Road Trip
The National Poetry Almanac project, organized by The Academy of American Poets, designates 31 different sites across the United States as National Poetry Landmarks — and do you ever really need an excuse to take an epic road trip? (Although as far as excuses go, this is a good one.) From the Addison Street Poetry Walk in Berkeley, California, to the Carl Sandberg Cottage in Galesburg, Illinois, to Langston Hughes’s hometown in Lawrence, Kansas, to the American Poets’ Corner, in New York City’s Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine, there is plenty for the poetry lover in you to discover, coast-to-coast.
10Tweet National Poetry Month Using #NPM17
However you decide to celebrate National Poetry Month this year, be sure to share all your reading, writing, and other poetic adventures with your fellow poetry lovers on Twitter, using the hashtag #NPM17. I'll definitely see you there!