After the success of Black History Month and Women’s History Month, the Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month in 1996. President Clinton declared, “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry… Their creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture and inspire a new generation of Americans to learn the power of reading and writing at its best.”
Over the years, National Poetry Month has inspired groups around the country. In 1998, the Academy of American Poets with the American Poetry and Literacy Project distributed 100,000 poetry books across the nation. In 2001, poetry lovers were asked to vote for their favorite poet to be put on a postage stamp. The U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp honoring poet Langston Hughes in 2002. The month has also inspired critics, such as Charles Bernstein, who argued the poetry celebrated is “mainstream” and “safe” (two things the most powerful poetry throughout history has not been).
These are just some of the ways you can celebrate National Poetry Month, whether you decide to focus on light or hardcore (or somewhere in between) is up to you. The Academy of American Poets has thirty ways to celebrate on their website. You can also subscribe and receive a Poem-A-Day for free. On Friday, April 11, the Rockford Certified Slam , a poetry slam open to everyone, will be held at the Lion’s Den inside Rockford University at 6:00 pm. In Print will be celebrating the month with guest speaker, Rockford poet Christopher Sims on Saturday, April 12 at 1:00 pm at the Cherry Valley District Library.