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Celebrate National Poetry Month!

posted: 4.7.10 by archived

It’s April.

This means that not only is it the cruellest month, but that it’s time to celebrate National Poetry Month in America.

As in many things poetry related, the American Academy of Poets sets the gold standard: here, on their Web site, you can find information about everything National Poetry Month.

They host a detailed FAQ about poetry month and its origins, a national map showing events that are occurring across the U.S., a poetry app for the iPhone, an overview of new poetry books, and resources for teachers, booksellers, and librarians. Sign up to receive a poem every day for the month of April.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, famed publisher of numerous esteemed poets, has a yearly blog for poetry month, Best Words in Their Best Order, which should feature some neat pieces, especially on younger and international poets. FSG publisher Jonathan Galassi, who is also a poet and translator, kicks off the month with a discussion of poetry in translation. They are also running a poem-a-day e-mail, which you can sign up for here.

Probably the best way to get involved with National Poetry Month, though, is to check out what your local library has planned for April–many libraries across the country have poetry events over the next four weeks.

In New York City, for instance, the New York Public Library is running a poetry film series and sponsoring a reading. (If you are in Chicago, the Poetry Foundation has a list of events for the coming month.)  Check your local library’s Web site for what’s going on near you.

In the Classroom:

Poetry month can be a good reason to dig deeper into the standard curriculum. Here are three ideas for taking advantage of April’s offerings:

1. Have students research a particular poet (one you assign, or one they pick) and present their findings.

2. Give credit for attending a local reading and sharing their impressions with the class.

3. Host your own reading and invite family and/or the community: you could use student work or have the class memorize favorite poems.


Andrew Flynn is an editorial assistant at Bedford/St. Martin’s. He graduated from Columbia in 2008, with a BA in history and philosophy. Before working at Bedford he interned at the Paris Review.

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Categories: Creative Writing, Joelle Hann (moderator), Literature, Teaching Advice
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Free Poetry Culture: LibriVox Edition

posted: 3.29.10 by archived

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about Yale Open Courses, and this week I’d like to highlight another great free audio resource online—LibriVox.

A sort of audio version of Project Gutenberg, LibriVox aims to put online audio recordings of all public domain books. This includes the novels of Dickens, Austen, Eliot, most of Conrad, and the bulk of Joyce.  (Membership in the canon is not a prerequisite, however; the database also includes selections such as “Selections From General Instructions For The Guidance Of Post Office Inspectors In The Dominion Of Canada”.)

There’s a lot of great  poetry in the public domain (by Yeats, Shelley, Keats, Tennyson, Hopkins, and many others), making Librivox a good resource for recordings of teachable poems. Additionally, LibriVox provides 84 mixed collections of short poetry,  perfect for loading on your iPod if you like to prep for class while jogging or commuting.

Volunteers, rather than actors, read the selections included in the LibriVox database, but the quality is generally high. (Even the best recordings of John Donne’s poetry couldn’t match the Richard Burton versions, though.)

If you find yourself intrigued by the project, you may want to volunteer yourself–or your students. (Instructions are found here.) It’s easy to get involved. Readers of this blog may be especially interested in recording a poem for the collections of short poetry.

In the Classroom

  • Start class by playing a recording of a poem before students read the poem.
  • Craft a short unit on the principles of reading poetry aloud.  Discuss poetry’s beginning in oral traditions. (LibriVox, of course, has recordings of the great, originally oral epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.) Split students into groups, and have them listen to several recordings and then make a list of what helps and/or hinders their ability to understand and enjoy the poem when they listen rather than read it.
  • Once students understand what makes for a good reading, have them choose a poem they’re drawn to and add it to the LibriVox canon.  They could even memorize it, participating in the oral tradition.  (See our post on the virtues of memorization.)

Related Posts

Poetry Speaks!

Memorization and Its Discontents

In Defense of Recitation


Andrew Flynn is an editorial assistant at Bedford/St. Martin’s. He graduated from Columbia in 2008, with a BA in history and philosophy. Before working at Bedford he interned at the Paris Review.

Comments Off on Free Poetry Culture: LibriVox Edition
Categories: Joelle Hann (moderator), Literature, Uncategorized
Read All archived