Say hello to National Poetry Month!

A much-read copy of "Selected Poems by Langston Hughes."
A much-read copy of “Selected Poems by Langston Hughes.”
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

Today marks the start of National Poetry Month, the monthlong celebration of the verse inaugurated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. The April initiative aims to highlight the legacy and achievements of America’s poets, and is among the largest literary celebrations in the world.

This year, in bold defiance of gloom over the postal service’s recent travails, the academy is focusing on the role correspondence has played in poetry over the years. It celebrates not just of the epistolary form in poetry but the decades-worth of letters exchanged by poets like Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell, Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, and Langston Hughes and Bessie Head. On, the academy’s website, you can browse a delightful selection of poets’ love letters and epistolary poems, as well as letters by several gay poets to their younger selves from the 2012 collection “The Letter Q.”

Students and aspiring poets can join in with correspondence of their own: in the spirit of Rainier Maria Rilke’s ever-influential “Letters to a Young Poet,” in which Rilke corresponds with a military cadet, the academy is inviting students to send handwritten letters to some of the poets who serve on its Board of Chancellors, a project it is calling “Dear Poet.” Those you can write to include Jane Hirshfield, Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman and C.D. Wright.

The Poetry Foundation’s Harriet blog will, in lieu of poetry news, be posting poems all month long. Expect to find works by Jen Hofer, Micah Ballard, Cornelius Eady, Vanessa Place, David Meltzer and 15 others there this month.


Readers all over the country can also participate in national Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 18, by printing a specially formatted pocket-sized poem to carry in a pocket to be shared with family, friends, and co-workers throughout the day. For those inclined to view letter-writing as a dying form but still wanting to stay on theme, one good choice might be Paul Guest’s “On the Persistence of the Letter as a Form.”

Another of the month’s highlights is the Poetry and the Creative Mind Gala, to be held April 17 at New York City’s Lincoln Center. The evening will celebrate the role of contemporary poetry in American culture, and will feature a diverse lineup of artists, scholars, and public figures including novelist Patricia Clarkson, radio host Jad Abumrad, chef Mario Batali, and actress Kathleen Turner, hosted by the New Yorker’s Calvin Trillin.

In 2011, KCET-TV gathered work by Los Angeles poets known and new about the city to celebrate the month: see videos and poems by Luis Rodriguez, Lewis MacAdams, A.K. Toney, Erendira Hernandez and others online.


Baseball books cover the bases

Joyce Carol Oates is at her gothic best in ‘The Accursed’

Amazon’s purchase of Goodreads panned -- on Goodreads