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Youth Book Corner: National Poetry Month

The month of April is celebrated as National Poetry Month. To commemorate this occasion, our Outreach Coordinator Leena Desai has compiled a list of interesting facts about this observance and activities to do with students.

  • The selection of April as National Poetry Month is said to be linked to T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Waste Land” and its iconic first line, “April is the cruellest month…” Story goes that the Academy of American Poets—the organization that instituted National Poetry Month in 1996—handed copies of Eliot’s “The Waste Land” to people waiting in line outside the post office to mail their tax returns that year, as a poetic shoulder to cry on or wallow their sorrows in, perhaps?
  • 2021 marks the 25th year of National Poetry Month, one of the largest literary events in the world, which sees the involvement of millions of academics, libraries, bookshops and cultural organizations.
  • In Canada, the League of Canadian Poets established April as National Poetry Month in 1999, marking this the 23rd year of its existence. Bearing in mind the year we have had and the predicaments we are facing due to the pandemic, the League has selected resilience as the theme of this poetry month.
  • Poem in Your Pocket Day is on April 29th. On this day, people are encouraged to carry a poem in their pocket and share it with others.
  • There are approximately (some are not yet official) 36 Poet Laureates in Canada. The Parliamentary Poet Laureate for the country is Cree poet Louise Bernice Halfe – Sky Dancer. The Poet Laureate for Vancouver (chosen by the Vancouver Writers Fest in partnership with the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Public Library) is Musqueam poet, Christie Charles.
  • On the same lines as NaNoWriMo (November’s National Novel Writing Month), NaPoWriMo, or National Poetry Writing Month, challenges writers to compose a poem a day throughout April.
  • Teachers and librarians play a huge role in National Poetry Month. The League of Canadian Poets recommends these activities for students:
    • Start the class with poetry: Poems are short, powerful, connect to other topics and spark dialogue, and they can inspire students to write.
    • “Poetry-palooza”: Organize a “poetry-palooza,” an activity in which students read aloud and distribute poems and write fan mail to their favourite poets.
    • Erasure poetry or found poetry: These two activities are similar and involve creating a new poem out of an existing one by either using a black marker to erase some words or selecting certain words and leaving others out to make a new poem.
    • Book spine poetry: This is a fun experiment, born out of Twitter and Instagram crazy times. The idea is to stack some books and make a poem with the titles of the books as they appear on the spines.
    • Response poetry: Literature has always been a response to the zeitgeist, but that’s not what this exercise is about. Here, picky readers and writers are prompted to write a response poem to a work in a medium they love; it could be a movie, a play, a photograph, or a painting. Picky poets, on the other hand, can respond in another medium to a pre-selected poem.
  • If you missed some recent Writers Fest poetry events, you can watch Word!, one of our most popular poetry events for youth during our Festival. This was put together by our Spoken Word curator, Jillian Christmas, and features Lishai Peel, Truth Is…, and Nasra Adem.

Author

Leena Desai