National Poetry Month

Many of us don’t need a month dedicated to poetry to remind us to appreciate it. But if you can’t remember the last time you read a poem, let alone tried your hand at writing one, you’re not alone.

Whether you’re a poetry aficionado, a published poet, have written a verse or two (or many more) but never shared them, or haven’t even thought about poetry since you were in grade school, now is a great time to gain fresh appreciation for this diverse and expressive art form.

The Academy of American Poets launched National Poetry Month in 1996, and it has been celebrated by libraries, bookstores, and local poetry organizations across the country every year since. The Academy offers free posters for participants

Both the Academy of American Poets and the Poetry Foundation websites have free databases of full poems, searchable by title, phrase, poet, birthplace, time period, and more.

GMCL Staff Favorites

Part of National Poetry Month is discovering new poems and sharing them with others. So, I asked my coworkers here at the Grace Mellman Community Library to tell me a favorite poem, or poet, and their reason for that choice.

Patty L. says, about Emily Dickinson’s ‘Ample make this bed…’:

“I first heard [the poem] when it was recited in the movie Sophie’s Choice. I just fell in love with it. I know it’s about a funeral and a grave, but just the way it’s written moves me.
‘Ample make this bed; make this bed with awe. . . .’”

Emily Dickinson collections available at the library include:

Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson
Click here for more.

Peche C. read Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” while in grad school, and “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe in high school.

“With ‘Annabel Lee,’ I think it’s a bittersweet poem, so I think of the narrator being on the cliffs overlooking the water, thinking of Annabel Lee and feeling sad over his loss of her.

With ‘And Still I Rise,’ I was writing my Capstone paper for my M.A. in Public Relations (it was about women and leadership), and I read the poem and felt so inspired, because Maya Angelou spoke the truth.

Edgar Allan Poe and Maya Angelou are legends in the world of poetry (and writing altogether). They speak from raw experience and I feel their emotions when I read their work.

Poe helps me to understand that men suffer from pain in the love & relationships just as women do, but his writing was a way for him to explore the world of pain and death-two topics many people avoid if they can.

Angelou writes of her experiences as a woman journeying through life and passing her wisdom along the way. It’s nice to have someone to relate to in this crazy world, and she was blessed by God with that incredible gift.”

Edgar Allan Poe collections available at the library include:

Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe Poetry for Young People: Emily Dickinson Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

Click here for more.

Another of our pages also suggested “Still I Rise.” She first encountered Maya Angelou’s work as part of a school project, and has associated her with strength ever since. She says:

“This poem is special to me because I live it, maybe not in the same way as Maya Angelou but I do live it and despite everything and everyone that has tried to break me or stop me ‘Still I Rise.’”

Maya Angelou poetry collections and writings available at the library include:

The Complete Poetry: Maya Angelou Poetry for Young People: Maya Angelou Rainbow in the Cloud

Click here for more.

Dominique M., our children’s librarian, names William Stafford as one of her favorite poets.

William Stafford poetry collections and writings available at the library include:

Learning to Live in the World Ask Me

A selection of William Stafford’s poetry is also available to read for free at

Last but not least, our circulation supervisor Rhonda says she loves Shel Silverstein, and I second that! A relative sent me three of his poetry books for Christmas when I was a kid, and even as a very young child I loved the snarky, clever rhymes paired with the distinctive, endearingly strange illustrations.

Shel Silverstein collections available at the library include:

A Light in the Attic Falling Up Where the Sidewalk Ends
Click here for more.

Ways to Celebrate

Sign up for the Poem-a-Day email service. It’s free, and you get a mix of brand new, never-before-published and classic poems delivered to your inbox daily.

Share your favorite poems on Poem In Your Pocket Day (this year it’s tomorrow, April 21). You can download the printable poems from the website, hand-write your own cards or scrolls to give out, or just share on social media with the hashtag #pocketpoem.

Discover poetry that takes forms you might not expect, such as American Sign Language (ASL) poetry.

Write your own poems! Learn the basics of writing haiku, or maybe slam poetry is more your cup of tea. If you want more serious instruction, you might sign up for a poetry MOOC.

Already a poet? Challenge yourself by writing a poem a day during April with NaPoWriMo, the unofficial sister movement of NaNoWriMo/National Novel Writing Month.

Take the time to read some poetry aloud, especially with your kids, and encourage them to read aloud to you. The New York Public Library has a list of read-aloud poems for all ages to get you started, and the library has a great selection of children’s poetry collections.

Learn more about the life of a favorite poet by looking them up in the Biography in Context database.

– Rachel C.


Academy of American Poets:

New York Public Library:

Poetry Foundation:

Header Photo Credit: neil conway via Compfight cc