Americans turn to poems in April

Poetry is sprouting everywhere in April.

It’s National Poetry Month in the United States, a time set aside to celebrate an art form that is not only one of humankind’s oldest but also more relevant than ever, according to Ydalmi Noriega of the Poetry Foundation, a Chicago-based group that promotes poetry.

During the pandemic, she says, people had the time and the need to find meaning in what they were experiencing, and poems provided them insights and connections across languages, cultures and eras.

Poetry, once seen as elitist in the United States, is more popular than ever, particularly among young people. Supporting the trend is the fact that more state and local governments recently created poet laureate positions to popularize poems. Spoken word poetry — that performed in “poetry slams,” for one example — has grown more prevalent. Presidential inaugural ceremonies have publicized particular poets’ work. And social media users employ platforms like Instagram to share their favorite poems. (The Poetry Foundation sends anyone interested a poem a day, as does the Academy of American Poets, with the choices this month curated by the poet laureate of the United States, Ada Limón.)

Poetry month, called by the academy “the largest literary celebration in the world” — is when many U.S. schools teach about poetry, public libraries offer readings, and communities engage residents in reading and writing poems:

  • The O, Miami Poetry Festival hopes to ensure that every single person in the county where Miami ls located encounters a poem. “Poetry parking tickets” will be slapped onto windshields, offering drivers verse instead of charging them fines. In the nearby neighborhood of Surfside, an art therapist will work with people to write poems about loss and hope, and then the poems will be posted in large formats on buildings for others to read.
  • The New York Public Library will invite the public to create poems and write them on leaves that will become a tree display. Dozens of events are scheduled for various ages to write and hear poetry in the library, online and even in the park.
  • On April 27, the academy celebrates Poem in Your Pocket Day, inviting people to share poems in person, by email, on social media or in other ways.

American poet T.S. Eliot may have called April “the cruelest month” in his poem The Waste Land, but readers in America will beg to differ.

Limón, the poet laureate, says she thinks of April “as an alive month, when we come back to life in some ways. And so I wanted [the poems I share] to perform a little resurrection.”