dead poet's society

Before the month is over, let’s make the most of National Poetry Month this year! If you’re not sure what to do, or what it is, here’s some background information.

Every April since 1996, the Academy of American Poets organizes the National Poetry Month celebrations! Originally, the creation of National Poetry Month was inspired Black History Month and Women’s History Month. These celebrations take place in February and March respectively. As a result, National Poetry Month follows right after.

All these celebrations have grown and expanded in both official and unofficial channels. This means that everyone can participate! National Poetry Month is all about promoting poetry and what it captures about and gives to humanity! Here are five ways that you can participate:

1. Read Poetry!

book and coffee

The easiest way to contribute to National Poetry Month is by reading poetry! Crack open a poetry book that you may have lying around at home. You could also buy one from your local bookstore! Try out classic authors such as Shakespeare and Walt Witman or more modern ones.

If you don’t have your own book and can’t spend money on a new one, never fear! You can find an abundance of poetry online. For example, you can check out Poetry Foundation’s website or the Academy of American Poets’ official website. Each website categorizes poetry differently. You can search by author, by theme, by age group, and so on.

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If you’re not sure what to read or want a surprise, you can subscribe to poetry.org’s poem-a-day program. They will email you a poem every day. You could get anything from a classic poem to unpublished work by contemporary poets!

2. Watch a Poetry Movie

DEAD POET'S SOCIETY

Another way you can celebrate this month is by watching a movie about poetry. For example, DEAD POET’S SOCIETY is a classic film that shows the power of poetry. In this movie, the new English teacher, John Keating, tries to connect with the students at Welton Academy, an all-male, elite prep school. Needless to say, the school promotes a toxic environment. Keating tries to inspire the boys to be themselves with poetry.

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In a powerful moment, Keating explains that “we don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”

Here are a few other poetry movies to check out, too: THE BASKETBALL DIARIES, A QUIET PASSION, BRIGHT STAR, and TOM & VIV.

3. Listen to a Poetry Recitation

There’s nothing like listening to a poem read aloud. For example, take Maya Angelou, renowned American poet, singer, memoirist, and civil rights activist, reading her poem “Still I Rise.” She is just one example of a poet who transforms words into an experience. Angelou passed away May 28, 2014, but her prolific legacy still stands.

In fact, celebrities such as Serena Williams and Nicki Minaj have also recited her poem. Everyone has a different way of interpreting poetry. That is what’s great about it! It continues through generations. Every individual poem can hold great meaning for many people, for someone’s life and legacy, and for a single person. So enjoy and watch away!

4. Submit to a Poetry Contest

National Poetry Month Writing

One way to contribute is writing your own poetry. However, you can take it one step further! Why not submit to a poetry contest or magazine? You can find magazines looking for content on Submittable. For example, SWITCHBACK is accepting submissions there. If you win their contest, you get $500!

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Some contests have entry fees, but there are plenty of free ones, too. You could also submit to your local literary magazine. If you’re in high school or college, check if your school has a club. If not, try and start one with other writers you know! National Poetry Month is all about promoting the national and local literary communities.

5. Subscribe to a Slam Poetry Channel

Slam poetry is a little different from poetry recitations but operates on the same principle: people gather together to perform and present works of textual and verbal art! Sometimes, the rhythm and art of poetry can best be heard out loud. Button Poetry is one example of an organization that promotes slam poetry media.

Some of their notable speakers are Neil Hilborn, the author of the famously moving poem “OCD,” Sabrina Benaim, a poet who recently published the book DEPRESSION AND OTHER MAGIC TRICKS, and Guante Solo, author of “10 Responses to the Phrase ‘Man Up’.” Slam poetry proves just how influential poetry can be. Thousands of people watch Button Poetry’s videos. These poets speak the truth in the best way they can!

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Go Celebrate National Poetry Month!

Now that you know what to do, go ahead and enjoy the festivities! What is great about these month-long celebrations is that you can contribute from the comfort of your own home. You can also use this as an opportunity connect with the people around you. Poetry is important to culture! Even more so in times of personal or public turmoil.

If you manage to check everything off this list and want to do even more, the Academy of American Poets has a list of thirty more things you can try! The month is halfway over, so make the most of the time that is left. Like Mr. Keating says in DEAD POET’S SOCIETY: Carpe diem! 

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