National Poetry Month was first suggested in 1995 by the Academy of American Poets as “a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.”
20 years later, this celebration of poetry has taken root and flourished.
This year, in 2015, the celebrations will be promoted with a poster designed by National Book Award finalist and The New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. The poster‘s nine panels contain the words from the opening stanza of the poet Mark Strand’s poem Eating Poetry:
Ink runs from the corners of my mouth.
There is no happiness like mine.
I have been eating poetry.
In addition to the poster, the Academy of American Poets has developed a program titled “Dear Poet”, a set of four lesson plans that teachers can use with students in grades 5-12. The lesson plans connect to the literacy standards of the Common Core in a “multimedia education project that invites young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets who serve on the Academy of American Poets Board of Chancellors.”
Examples of some of the activities in the lesson plans connected to English Language Arts standards include:
Speaking (and gesturing):
- Students make a sound, using their own voice, without words, to express how they are feeling at the moment.
- Right now I feel… (using only a hand gesture)
- Right now I feel… (using only their voice with no words)
- Right now I feel… (using their gesture, voice, and descriptive words)
Students listen and describe the sound by writing in their journals.
Students read six poems and complete a T-chart with one side with what “jumps out at them” in the poem and on the other side, why they think this is important to the poet’s voice/poem.
Students draft a letter addressed to a chosen poet, telling him/her what in the poem spoke to them, and asking questions relating to how the poet wrote this poem.
The lesson plans include links for students to upload their letters as an authentic task.
During the month of April, teachers can follow updates on Twitter using the hashtag #npm15 and follow the Academy of American Poets @POETSorg.
The end of National Poetry Month will conclude with “Poem in Your Pocket Day” (April 30) and teachers and students alike can celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it, and sharing it with others throughout the day. Copies of suggested poems (in the public domain) are available by download.
For those who would want to continue the celebration of poetry all year, there is also a link to a poem a day a previously unpublished poems is delivered by e-mail daily during the week and classic poems delivered on the weekends.
There is a behavioral theory that practicing a specific skill for 66 days will make that practice a life-long habit. While the planned 30 days of poetry practice in the month of April will fall short, the American Academy of Poets should attempt a co-op the “National Fitness Month” of May using the ploy, “Poems are a work-out for the mind!”