The American Poetry & Literacy Project is a national, non-profit organization created by the late Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky and a young author named Andrew Carroll. Brodsky, who was exiled from the Soviet Union in 1972 and later served as the U.S. Poet Laureate, championed the idea that poetry should be made accessible to all Americans.
Since it was created in 1993, the APL Project has distributed more than 1,000,000 free, brand new poetry books in schools, hotels, subway and train stations, hospitals, jury waiting rooms, supermarkets, truck stops, day-care centers, airports, zoos, and other public venues nationwide. The purpose of these giveaways is to put poetry directly into the hands of people from all walks of life in hopes that they will read, enjoy, and share these free books.
Past giveaways include handing out copies of Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" & Other Favorite Poems for Halloween, Great Love Poems for Valentine's Day, and Spanish Poems for Cinqo de Mayo. The APL Project distributes books year-round, but for National Poetry Month (April), the organization tries to do something unique. For example:
- During National Poetry Month 1998, APL Project co-founder Andrew Carroll drove across the country in a Ryder truck and handed out over 100,000 poetry books along the way in the Great APLseed Giveaway.
- In April 1999, the APL Project placed more than 40,000 copies of Songs for the Open Road: Poems of Travel & Adventure in Volkswagen Bugs (tens of thousands of books also went to Peace Corps volunteers and U.S. sailors abroad).
- In April 2000, the APL Project distributed 100,000 poetry books on American Airlines' planes.
- After hearing about the American Airlines giveaway, the APL Project was contacted by representatives from the 2002 Olympic Winter Games, who asked the APL Project to create a book of international poetry to be distributed in Salt Lake City. The APL Project edited A World of Poetry and handed out more than 100,000 copies to Olympic athletes, judges, and spectators in February 2002.
The APL Project has also collaborated with Yellow Pages publishers to feature poetry in their directories. More than 15,000,000 telephone books throughout the country have displayed great poems throughout their listings. The APL Project hopes to work with more Yellow Pages publishers and help place poems in tens of millions of directories from coast to coast.
The APL Project's main mission is to distribute poetry books in public places. For National Poetry Month 2003, the APL Project will be working with the Academy of American Poets to give away free copies of a new anthology titled Across State Lines: America's 50 States as Represented in Poetry.
The APL Project does not receive government funding, and is run entirely on a volunteer basis. All donations to the APL Project go directly into funding the printing and distribution of the books. For every dollar the APL Project receives, the organization can give away two books of poetry.
Individuals or corporations interested in underwriting a giveaway of books can write to:
The American Poetry & Literacy Project
P. O. Box 53445
Washington, DC 20009
(Please note that due to limited funding and staff size, it is difficult for the APL Project to respond to requests for individual books of poetry. In most cases, the organization sends bulk shipments to specific nonprofit agencies, corporations, and public institutions.)
The APL Project is recognized as a 501(c)(3) charitable institution by the Internal Revenue Service. Contributions are tax-deductible to the full extent of the law.