April is National Poetry Month. Now, don’t think this is one of those fake holidays like “Walk On Your Wild Side Day” (April 12) or “Jelly Bean Day” (April 22). The Academy of American Poets started National Poetry Month in 1996, and it’s “the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture,” according to the academy.
At Ivy Tech, we celebrate with the Ink Cloud Poetry Contest (learn more and submit online). I also asked our librarians and English teachers to suggest poets. We weren’t looking for their favorite poets, per se, but suggestions of poets that students should be reading, even if poetry isn’t exactly their thing.
Here’s who they shared:
“My favorite poet is Joy Harjo because her poems are so exquisitely attuned to her surroundings. They show that poetry is necessary to life. There is great variety in her work, yet she maintains her own clear voice. Her poems have wonderful rhythms and are great to read aloud because she is also a jazz musician and plays Native American flute. One of my favorites is Eagle Poem.”
~Ann Morrison Spinney, librarian
“I think students should be reading Helen Frost (who lives in Fort Wayne). She was part of the Big Read Campaign a few years ago for her novel-in-verse, ‘Keesha’s House.'”
~Paula Ashe, assistant professor, English
“Sometimes I’m in the mood for something silly, and I turn to children’s poets like Shel Silverstein or Jack Prelutsky. Some of their poems are nonsense while others make perfect sense, and they’re all great for a silly read either by yourself or with a group of kids. I still remember the first Shel Silverstein poem I memorized way back in second grade:
I’ve done it! I’ve done it!
Guess what I’ve done!
Invented a light that plugs into the sun.
The sun is bright enough,
The bulb is strong enough,
But, oh, there’s only one thing wrong…
The cord ain’t long enough.”
~Liz Metz, librarian
Nicole Treesh, the Fort Wayne Campus’ library director, pointed out that the library acquired some new poetry books last month, and the library will have a display of poetry books throughout April to help promote Ink Cloud. Here are the new books:
- “Adultolescence,” by Gabbie Hanna
- “Comedian Gabbie Hanna brings levity to the twists and turns of modern adulthood in this exhilarating debut collection of illustrated poetry.”
- “The Sun and Her Flowers,” by Rupi Kaur
- “A vibrant and transcendent journey about growth and healing. Ancestry and honoring one’s roots. Expatriation and rising up to find a home within yourself.”
- “Milk and Honey,” by Rupi Kaur
- “#1 New York Times bestseller Milk and Honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. About the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity.”
- “Whiskey Words & A Shovel III,” by r.h. Sin
- “Bestselling poet r.h. Sin completes the trilogy with ‘Whiskey Words & a Shovel III’! His raw voice delivers gritty, impassioned truths on matters of loving, living, and leaving in this final book in the series.”
And to throw one more suggestion out there: anything by Hafiz. He’s a Sufi mystic poet from the 1300s, and his translations by Daniel Ladinsky show a poet who describes his relationship with the divine as something completely playful. “Venus Just Asked Me” is one of my favorites.
If you’d like to celebrate National Poetry Month further, April 26 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. “On this day, select a poem, carry it with you, and share it with others at schools, bookstores, libraries, parks, workplaces, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem,” according to the Academy of American Poets.
Who are your favorite poets?