April 12, 2010 In 1996, the Academy of American Poetry inaugurated National Poetry Month to "to widen the attention of individuals and the media—to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern," as the AAP website puts it. "We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated."
Clearly, these folks could have used better PR advice. In addition to formulating this utterly lifeless mission statement, they also came up with a campaign to hand out copies of T. S. Eliot's The Wasteland—possibly the most unreadable poem in the English language—to people standing in line at U.S. post offices.
On April 15.
While April may well be the cruelest month to taxpayers, particularly to those who wait till the last possible day to file, the decision to foist Eliot on people in an abject state of hostility and/or despair is arguably not the best way to emphasize how much richer life can be when it is translated into the precise and resonant language of poetry.
There are better ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. Faye Jones—Chapter 16 writer and Nashville State Community College dean—sends out a carefully chosen poem each day to anyone who requests it, for example. (To receive the poems yourself, just leave a comment at her blog, The Jolly Librarian.)
And Diann Blakely—read her own gorgeous poem, "Before the Flood: A Solo From New Orleans" here—is writing a series of essays for Swampland about the state of contemporary poetry. Read her first bulletin here, and the second here. Look for four additional installments, appearing roughly one each week, throughout April. "Yes, I know April has only five weeks," Blakely says, "but I'm taking advantage of that thing they call 'poetic license.'"
For more updates on Tennessee authors, please visit Chapter 16's News & Notes page, here.