How To Take Part in National Poetry Month

by Meg Boyles

April is more than a time for showers; it’s National Poetry Month. Since 1996, the Academy of American Poets has spearheaded this month-long celebration of the art form, in order to remind us to appreciate and be inspired by the power of poetry. If you’re wondering how to participate in National Poetry Month, the Academy has compiled thirty ways to get involved, including chalking a poem on sidewalk, buying a poetry book from your local bookshop, and asking the U.S. Post Office to offer more stamps that recognize poets.

On April 18th, you can get involved in this year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day. Participants choose a poem and carry it in their pockets to share with the people they come in contact with that day.

At Chapman University’s MFA program, we’ve been gearing up for National Poetry Month since March. Last month, the writers in Dr. Anna Leahy’s poetry workshop drafted a poem every single day. Their poems were published on private blogs to be shared with and responded to by others in their class. As a poet who has taken on this challenge previously in one of Dr. Leahy’s workshops, I can attest that this project is difficult but creatively very rewarding and excellent at teaching discipline. And April becomes a month of exciting revision of the best of those drafts.

The month of April at Chapman is also set with poetry events to celebrate National Poetry Month. Our graduate students Sierra Ellison, Daniel Strasberger, and Matt Goldman have volunteered to teach a Teen Poetry Slam & Workshop at the Orange Public Library on April 6th. They’ll work with poets from seventh to twelfth grade to help them craft a poem and share their pieces with each other.

On Sunday, April 28th, at 6pm, Dr. Leahy, Rachel Jorquera, and I will read our work at a poetry reading series in Los Angeles at Hey Hey Drinks. As two poets finishing the MFA this semester, Rachel and I will read poems from our respective thesis projects. Dr. Leahy has been serving as our thesis director, so being able to read with her at this event will be particularly meaningful for us as part of the culmination of our degree.

Personally, I’m going to consider poetry within my culture and want I can do to support it. With regular government threats to funding of the arts, I’d like to focus on avenues that invest in language and poetry: the National Endowment for the Arts, including their grant programs Art Works and Challenge America, and MFA programs like Chapman University’s. Because I’ll be moving away in May, I’m going to donate some of the poetry books on my shelf to my local library, retirement homes, and Goodwill this month. I also plan to read Adrienne Rich’s What Is Found There: Notebooks on Poetry and Politics, which has been recommended to me for considering the relationship between art and social change. Oh, and I’m going to defend my poetry thesis and write new poems too!

For National Poetry Month, I hope that you too are able to be inspired by the poetry around you. Maybe you sign up for a daily email of poetry, like with Verse Daily or Poetry Daily, donate to a cause, or write a note to a poet whose work you admire. Maybe you just read one poem and allow yourself to really think about it. There’s more than one right way to participate in National Poetry Month. What’s important is allowing yourself time to appreciate and listen to poetry.