National Poetry Month

Juan Felipe Herrera, National Poetry Month

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poetry month
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about the celebration

about the celebration

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month, held every April, is the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry's vital place in our culture.

Thanks to all who helped make this April the best celebration yet. And join us in 2016 for the twentieth anniversary of National Poetry Month! 

National Poetry Month
 

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Dear Poet 2015

A multimedia educational project that invited young people to write letters in response to poems shared by our Chancellors.

learn more

Naomi Shihab Nye

Poem in Your Pocket Day

Thousands of individuals across the U.S. carried a poem in their pocket on April 30, 2015. 
 

find a poem

Poetry & the Creative Mind

Our annual gala was held at Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center in New York City on April 15, 2015.
 

read more

 

upcoming events

date
Jul 07 2015

ANNENBERG BEACH HOUSE: Mahogany Browne, Dean Kostos, and Richard Siken

ANNENBERG BEACH HOUSE:
Mahogany Browne, Dean Kostos, and Richard SikenAs part of the Beach=Culture series, the PSA presents a reading and moderated discussion with an eclectic mix of acclaimed contemporary poets.

Co-sponsored by American Composers Forum, Los Angeles, The City of Santa Monica, and Red Hen Press.

Admission is free. Please make reservations online at beachhouse.smgov.net or call (310) 458-2257

6:30pm
Annenberg Community Beach House
415 Pacific Coast Highway
90402 Santa Monica, California
Jul 09 2015

A CELEBRATION OF INTERNATIONAL POETRY: NEW GENERATION AFRICAN POETS

AMY LUKAU, TSITSI JAJI, LADAN OSMAN, VIOLA ALLO, AND WARSAN SHIREThe Poetry Society of America continues its 2015 national series, A Celebration of International Poetry, at the Poetry Foundation in Chicago. The series will travel to six cities and focus on major international poets from any era, including Octavio Paz (Mexico), Alda Merini (Italy), Li Po (China), among many others.In this third installment, we will celebrate several emerging poets from Africa, Amy Lukau, Tsitsi Jaji, Ladan Osman, Viola Allo, and Warsan Shire, whose work has been recently published in the New Generation African Poets chapbook series. Editors Chris Abani, Kwame Dawes, and Matthew Shenoda will discuss the project and introduce the emerging poets, who will then read from their work. 

Co-sponsored by the Poetry Foundation.

7:00pm
The Poetry Foundation
61 W Superior St
60654 Chicago, Illinois
Jul 10 2015 to Jul 11 2015

E.E. Cummings at Silver Lake~A Weekend of Celebration

Mark your calendars. Friends of Madison Library present a weekend of art, music, poetry, and history exploring the relationship between the American poet and artist E.E. Cummings and the people and town of Madison, New Hampshire. Friday night will feature a “non-lecture,” art show, and Cummings’ poetry set to music. On Saturday view eight local sites, including the Cummings Family Collection at the Madison Historical Society and the poet’s beloved “Joy Farm.”Tickets are $20 per person or $15 if purchased before June 30. Tickets include both the Friday night events and the Saturday tour.Joy Farm will host a Friday afternoon tea with limited seating by separate additional $10 ticket purchased in advance.All proceeds benefit the nonprofit Friends of Madison Library.www.cummingsatsilverlake.com

Admission fee: $20.00
7:00pm to 3:30pm
Madison Library
1895 Village Road
03849 Madison, New Hampshire

Poems by Our Chancellors

Poems by Our Chancellors
next
Burning the Old Year
Naomi Shihab Nye, 1952
Letters swallow themselves in seconds.   
Notes friends tied to the doorknob,   
transparent scarlet paper,
sizzle like moth wings,
marry the air.

So much of any year is flammable,   
lists of vegetables, partial poems.   
Orange swirling flame of days,   
so little is a stone.

Where there was something and suddenly isn’t,   
an absence shouts, celebrates, leaves a space.   
I begin again with the smallest numbers.

Quick dance, shuffle of losses and leaves,   
only the things I didn’t do   
crackle after the blazing dies.
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
The Weakness
Toi Derricotte, 1941
That time my grandmother dragged me
through the perfume aisles at Saks, she held me up
by my arm, hissing, "Stand up,"
through clenched teeth, her eyes
bright as a dog's
cornered in the light.
She said it over and over,
as if she were Jesus,
and I were dead.  She had been
solid as a tree,
a fur around her neck, a
light-skinned matron whose car was parked, who walked
  on swirling
marble and passed through
brass openings—in 1945.
There was not even a black
elevator operator at Saks.
The saleswoman had brought velvet
leggings to lace me in, and cooed,
as if in service of all grandmothers.
My grandmother had smiled, but not
hungrily, not like my mother
who hated them, but wanted to please,
and they had smiled back, as if
they were wearing wooden collars.
When my legs gave out, my grandmother 
dragged me up and held me like God
holds saints by the
roots of the hair.  I begged her
to believe I couldn't help it.  Stumbling,
her face white
with sweat, she pushed me through the crowd, rushing
away from those eyes
that saw through
her clothes, under
her  skin, all the way down
to the transparent 
genes confessing.
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
A Green Crab's Shell
Mark Doty, 1953
Not, exactly, green:
closer to bronze
preserved in kind brine,

something retrieved
from a Greco-Roman wreck,
patinated and oddly

muscular. We cannot
know what his fantastic
legs were like—

though evidence
suggests eight
complexly folded

scuttling works
of armament, crowned
by the foreclaws'

gesture of menace
and power. A gull's
gobbled the center,

leaving this chamber
—size of a demitasse—
open to reveal

a shocking, Giotto blue.
Though it smells
of seaweed and ruin,

this little traveling case
comes with such lavish lining!
Imagine breathing

surrounded by
the brilliant rinse
of summer's firmament.

What color is
the underside of skin?
Not so bad, to die,

if we could be opened
into this—
if the smallest chambers

of ourselves,
similarly,
revealed some sky.
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
Personals
C. D. Wright, 1949
Some nights I sleep with my dress on. My teeth
are small and even. I don't get headaches.
Since 1971 or before, I have hunted a bench
where I could eat my pimento cheese in peace.
If this were Tennessee and across that river, Arkansas,
I'd meet you in West Memphis tonight. We could
have a big time. Danger, shoulder soft.
Do not lie or lean on me. I'm still trying to find a job
for which a simple machine isn't better suited.
I've seen people die of money. Look at Admiral Benbow. I wish
like certain fishes, we came equipped with light organs.
Which reminds me of a little known fact:
if we were going the speed of light, this dome
would be shrinking while we were gaining weight.
Isn't the road crooked and steep.
In this humidity, I make repairs by night. I'm not one
among millions who saw Monroe's face
in the moon. I go blank looking at that face.
If I could afford it I'd live in hotels. I won awards
in spelling and the Australian crawl. Long long ago.
Grandmother married a man named Ivan. The men called him
Eve. Stranger, to tell the truth, in dog years I am up there.
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
tomorrow I leave to El Paso, Texas
Juan Felipe Herrera, 1948
see my brother-in-law with a styled shirt

in spite of his cancer below 

then a small dinner in the evening the next day

no one knows except I may be on the road

Mesquite where my father settled in '31

forty-five minutes west then a left you go in

sister Sarita waits for me on Abby Street

after decades in separate families we just met 

now I hear the clock snap I swipe an ant

time to walk my dogs five blocks and back

a different route to soothe the mind

it is the same one but I am hopeful
Poems by Our Chancellors
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Lyric
Khaled Mattawa, 1964
Will answers be found
like seeds
planted among rows of song?

Will mouths recognize
the hunger
in their voices, all mouths in unison,

the ah in harmony, the way words
of hope are more
than truth when whispered?

Will we turn to each other and ask,
how long
has it been...how long since?

A world now, a world then
and each
is seeking a foothold, trying

to remember when we looked
at one another
and found—A world again—Surely

what we long for is at the wheel 
contending.

Surely, we'll soon hear 
its unearthly groan.
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
Matriot Acts, Act I [History of Mankind]
Anne Waldman, 1945
you no longer believe in anything
movement of train, mauve waves
grammar's anomie
gets you down or
war at the back and crown of head
PsyOps, o chicken little the sky! the sky!
o the fallen sky an edge of blue
hanging but
still breathing those colors?
a garden broken & restored many times
how often trying to leave it, bend away
words from that beautiful throat
listen or break or oscillate or
clamor as opposed to "read about"
could you be my model human being
up there on the dais?
o you, she...maybe he's the one
& we came back from the cinema
glow behind our tears
and you saying a woman, a woman!
how tragic to be such slender thread of a woman
where was I being led?
more people thick in space
in constant motion
twisted around a clock
solar wind, solar heat, sociable matrix
it's an atavistic mixed-up dream
and stirs the branches
high in Freedom Park
it was the voice of a desultory fragment
of speech now, talking about "state" and "union"
how darkness turns at the wrist
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
Praise Song for the Day
Elizabeth Alexander, 1962

A Poem for Barack Obama's Presidential Inauguration

Each day we go about our business,
walking past each other, catching each other's
eyes or not, about to speak or speaking.

All about us is noise. All about us is
noise and bramble, thorn and din, each
one of our ancestors on our tongues. 

Someone is stitching up a hem, darning
a hole in a uniform, patching a tire,
repairing the things in need of repair.

Someone is trying to make music somewhere,
with a pair of wooden spoons on an oil drum, 
with cello, boom box, harmonica, voice.

A woman and her son wait for the bus.
A farmer considers the changing sky.
A teacher says, Take out your pencils. Begin.

We encounter each other in words, words
spiny or smooth, whispered or declaimed,
words to consider, reconsider.

We cross dirt roads and highways that mark
the will of some one and then others, who said
I need to see what's on the other side.

I know there's something better down the road.
We need to find a place where we are safe.
We walk into that which we cannot yet see.
 
Say it plain: that many have died for this day.
Sing the names of the dead who brought us here,
who laid the train tracks, raised the bridges, 

picked the cotton and the lettuce, built
brick by brick the glittering edifices
they would then keep clean and work inside of.

Praise song for struggle, praise song for the day.
Praise song for every hand-lettered sign, 
the figuring-it-out at kitchen tables.

Some live by love thy neighbor as thyself,
others by first do no harm or take no more
than you need. What if the mightiest word is love?

Love beyond marital, filial, national,
love that casts a widening pool of light,
love with no need to pre-empt grievance.

In today's sharp sparkle, this winter air,
any thing can be made, any sentence begun.
On the brink, on the brim, on the cusp,

praise song for walking forward in that light.

 

Poems by Our Chancellors
next
Exile
Alicia Ostriker, 1937
The downward turning touch
the cry of time
fire falling without sound
plunge my hand in the wound

children marching and dying
all that I do is a crime
because I do not reach
their mouths silently crying

my boychild reaches with his mouth
it is easy, being a mother
his skin is tender and soft
kisses stitch us together

we love as long as we may
then come years without kisses
when he will turn away
not to waste breath

when I too will fall
embracing a pillow at night
touching the stone of exile
reaching my hand to death
Poems by Our Chancellors
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Slight Tremor
Linda Gregerson, 1950
The fine fourth finger
of his fine right hand,

just slightly, when
he's tracking our path

on his iPhone or
repairing the clasp

on my watch I
will not think about

the myelin sheath.
Slight tremor only,

transient, so
the flaw in the

pavement must
have been my

mother's back.
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
After David Hammons
Claudia Rankine

In the darkened moment a body gifted with the blue light of a flashlight
enters with levity, with or without assumptions, doubts, with desire,
the beating heart, disappointment, with desires—

Stand where you are.

You begin to move around in search of the steps it will take before you
are thrown back into your own body, back into your own need to be found.

Destinations are lost. You raise yourself. No one else is seeking.

You exhaust yourself looking into the blue light. All day blue burrows
the atmosphere. What doesn't belong with you won't be seen.

You could build a world out of need or you could hold everything
back and see. You could hold everything back. You hold back the black.

You hold everything black. You hold this body's lack. You hold yourself
back until nothing's left but the dissolving blues of metaphor.

Poems by Our Chancellors
next
The Chair She Sits In
Alberto Ríos, 1952

I’ve heard this thing where, when someone dies,
People close up all the holes around the house—

The keyholes, the chimney, the windows,
Even the mouths of the animals, the dogs and the pigs.

It’s so the soul won’t be confused, or tempted.
It’s so when the soul comes out of the body it’s been in

But that doesn’t work anymore,
It won’t simply go into another one

And try to make itself at home,
Pretending as if nothing happened.

There’s no mystery—it’s too much work to move on.
It isn’t anybody’s fault. A soul is like any of us.

It gets used to things, especially after a long life.
The way I sit in my living-room chair,

The indentation I have put in it now
After so many years—that’s how I understand.

It’s my chair,
And I know how to sit in it.

Poems by Our Chancellors
next
Late Self-Portrait by Rembrandt
Jane Hirshfield, 1953

The dog, dead for years, keeps coming back in the dream.
We look at each other there with the old joy.
It was always her gift to bring me into the present—

Which sleeps, changes, awakens, dresses, leaves.

Happiness and unhappiness
differ as a bucket hammered from gold differs from one of pressed tin,
this painting proposes.

Each carries the same water, it says.

Poems by Our Chancellors
next
Dusting
Marilyn Nelson, 1946
Thank you for these tiny
particles of ocean salt,
pearl-necklace viruses,
winged protozoans:
for the infinite,
intricate shapes
of submicroscopic
living things.

For algae spores
and fungus spores,
bonded by vital
mutual genetic cooperation,
spreading their
inseparable lives
from equator to pole.

My hand, my arm,
make sweeping circles.
Dust climbs the ladder of light.
For this infernal, endless chore,
for these eternal seeds of rain:
Thank you. For dust.
Poems by Our Chancellors
next
At the Equinox
Arthur Sze, 1950
The tide ebbs and reveals orange and purple sea stars. 
I have no theory of radiance, 

                but after rain evaporates 
off pine needles, the needles glisten. 

In the courtyard, we spot the rising shell of a moon,
and, at the equinox, bathe in its gleam. 

Using all the tides of starlight, 
                we find 
                vicissitude is our charm.

On the mud flats off Homer, 
I catch the tremor when waves start to slide back in; 

and, from Roanoke, you carry 
                the leafing jade smoke of willows. 

Looping out into the world, we thread 
                and return. The lapping waves 

cover an expanse of mussels clustered on rocks; 
and, giving shape to what is unspoken, 
		
                forsythia buds and blooms in our arms.

recent news and updates

May 21 2015
Dear Poet letter
Thanks to everyone who participated in Dear Poet, our National Poetry Month education project that invited young people to respond to poems written and read by some of the award-winning poets who serve on our Board of Chancellors. We received 1,500+ letters from students (and teachers), and our Chancellors were thrilled to respond to a selection of them. We've included others from across the country, and around the world. Take a look!
Apr 28 2015
Every April, on Poem in Your Pocket Day, people throughout the United States celebrate by selecting a poem, carrying it with them, and sharing it with others throughout the day. Take a look at how these innovative schools and libraries are celebrating this year.

twitter

Jul 4 2015
“RT @ClassroomDirect: Bright, colorful "I am" Poetry Art from @the_teacherlife Such a cool self-esteem building lesson. #npm15 http://t.co/h…”
Jul 3 2015
“RT @jesskristie: Kite Strings from my #poetry collection, Winter Dress. #Poems #NPM15 http://t.co/tx27TCmIa4”
Jul 2 2015
“RT @2pac: In support of #NPM15, we will explore the many writings of Tupac Shakur. Seen here is “What is it That I Search For." http://t.co…”
Jun 30 2015
“RT @2pac: In support of #NPM15, we will explore the many writings of Tupac Shakur. Seen here is “What is it That I Search For." http://t.co…”
Jun 30 2015
“RT @2pac: In support of #NPM15, we will explore the many writings of Tupac Shakur. Seen here is “Sometimes I Cry." http://t.co/7SGca4vpMa”
Jun 30 2015
“RT @backotbook: Today's #tbt Sibel Sayiner & Violet Trachtenberg - "Pride" https://t.co/lRCCyFoHxC via @buttonpoetry #npm15”