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Friday, April 6, 2018

April Is National Poetry Month

Written by Jon Williams

Each year since 1996, April has been designated as National Poetry Month in the United States. The Academy of American Poets was inspired by such successful and inspirational celebrations like Black History Month and Women’s History Month, and set up their own month-long event to encourage poetry appreciation. In one sense, poetry is something of a universal art form—who hasn’t tried their hand at writing a few lines of verse, or even just appreciated the lyrics of a good song? And yet, somehow, it has grown neglected: a 2012 survey indicated that less than 7% of Americans had read a poem in the past year, down from 17% in 1992.

National Poetry Month aims to change that, and while the next survey from the National Endowment for the Arts is still a few years away, there’s some hope that the trend is turning the opposite direction. One of the drivers has been social media, where the popular poet Rupi Kaur began working before publishing her debut collection, milk and honey, in 2014. It’s a similar story for Amanda Lovelace, who debuted with 2016’s The Princess Saves Herself in This One and followed it up earlier this year with The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. These women have placed their books on national bestseller lists and amassed millions of followers, following a trail blazed in part by Lang Leav, who published Love & Misadventure in 2013 and has followed it up with several more collections and a novel.

There are plenty of other contemporary poets your patrons might like to sample. Why not start with the U.S. Poet Laureate? Tracy K. Smith took over that post in September of 2017, and her latest collection, Wade in the Water, was published this week. She took over for Juan Felipe Herrera, who had held the post since 2015. Other current poets of note include Claudia Rankine, Eileen Myles, and Kwame Alexander, to name just a very few.

For those patrons who prefer the classics, well, where do we begin? Possibly with Homer, and The Iliad and The Odyssey. Beowulf. Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Shakespeare’s sonnets. Milton’s Paradise Lost. The works of Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Sylvia Plath, Emily Dickinson, and T.S. Eliot. Jack Kerouac and the Beat poets. Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni. How’s that for running the gamut? This mere handful of names should illustrate just how fine and varied poetry is as an art form, the legacy that the contemporary poets named above are carrying on.

We know there are a ton of wonderful poets and poems that we had to leave out, so please, let us know some of your favorites and what’s popular at your library. In the meantime, be sure to stock up on plenty of poetry audiobooks for your patrons to enjoy this month and all year long. Also, if your library is a hoopla partner, make sure your patrons know about the collections our team has put together to celebrate National Poetry Month, in both audiobook and eBook formats. Those titles, like all titles on hoopla, are available to library cardholders 24/7, with no holds and no late fees.

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