On Poetry

April Is National Poetry MonthNational Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. The Academy of American Poets is a non-profit organization founded in 1934 to support American poets at all stages of their careers and to foster the appreciation of contemporary poetry. This year Israeli-born American illustrator Maria Kalman was chosen to create the official National Poetry Month Poster.

David Whyte, poet extraordinaire, says poetry is language against which we have no defense. We inhabit a moment in which defended language is practically all we know, and so we are re-learning our basic human need of poetry to flourish. Many of the wise guests of the Peabody Award-winning public radio conversation and podcast On Being, spontaneously bring a poem into their reflections on mystery and meaning in life. Check out the vast compilation of poems On Being has curated for the Poetry Radio Project -Mary Oliver to Wendell Berry, from John O’Donohue to Rumi to Pablo Neruda and many more. Listen. Read. Watch. Enjoy.

On Being and the Poetry Foundation collaborated to launch the Poetry Radio Project. Through features and conversations with poets in a variety of contexts, the project seeks to enrich and deepen listeners’ perspectives on global events and American culture and to expand listeners’ engagement with contemporary and classical poetry.

30 Ways To Celebrate National Poetry Month from the Academy of American Poets & poetry book recommendations from The Artful Blog for enthusiasts and educators:

Out Of Wonder: Poems Celebrating Poets by Kwame Alexander (Author), Chris Colderley (Author) & Marjory Wentworth (Author), 2017.

A beautiful and inspired book that brings poetry to life with a culturally rich collection of poetic tributes that extends the legacies of poets from around the globe. Out of gratitude for the poet’s art form, Newbery Award-winning author and poet Kwame Alexander, along with Chris Colderley and Marjory Wentworth, present original poems that pay homage to twenty famed poets who have made the authors’ hearts sing and their minds wonder. Stunning mixed-media images by Ekua Holmes, winner of a Caldecott Honor and a John Steptoe New Talent Illustrator Award, complete the celebration and invite the reader to listen, wonder, and perhaps even pick up a pen. Exemplary words and inspired pictures make this a multicultural masterwork.

Ten Windows: How Great Poems Transform the World by Jane Hirshfield, 2015.

A brilliant collection of essays on how the best poems work, from the master poet and essayist. “Poetry,” Jane Hirshfield has said, “is language that foments revolutions of being.” In ten eloquent and highly original explorations, she unfolds and explores some of the ways this is done -by the inclusion of hiddenness, paradox, and surprise; by a perennial awareness of the place of uncertainty in our lives; by language’s own acts of discovery; by the powers of  image, statement, music, and feeling to enlarge in every direction. The lucid understandings presented here are gripping and transformative in themselves. Investigating the power of poetry to move and change us becomes in these pages an equal investigation into the inhabitance and navigation of our human lives.

Closely reading poems by Dickinson, Bashō, Szymborska, Cavafy, Heaney, Bishop, and Komunyakaa, among many others, Hirshfield reveals how poetry’s world-making takes place: word by charged word. By expanding what is imaginable and sayable, Hirshfield proposes, poems expand what is possible. Ten Windows restores us at every turn to a more precise, sensuous, and deepened experience of our shared humanity and of the seemingly limitless means by which that knowledge is both summoned and forged.