After a long and difficult winter, spring is finally here. Along with much nicer weather and hopefully more opportunities to be out and about, April also brings joy to those who are literary minded. April is National Poetry Month, a time when people reflect on the poetry of the past and present. National Poetry Month was launched by the Academy of American Poets in April of 1996. This year makes it the 25th anniversary of this recognition of this form of expression. With Amanda Gorman and her poetry recitals at the inauguration and the Super Bowl, it shows that poetry is resonating with people in a way that it has not been in years. If there were ever a moment of the poet, then this is it.
Now is a great opportunity to explore the work of poets such as Paul Lawrence Dunbar and Langston Hughes. Whether it is the themes explored in “We Wear the Mask” or “Words Like Freedom,” the topics touched upon are thought-provoking. Pieces such as “The Birth of John Henry” by Melvin B. Tolson and “Love Rejected” by Lucille Clifton are worth re-reading for their own sake. A book that may be of interest to supporters of poetry is the classic “The Black Poets” by Dudley Randall.
To truly understand the impact, it is important to read the work of Black poets who have paved the way for today’s scene. Check out the “Voices of Harlem,” a series in partnership with the Harlem Writers Guild that pays homage to the written words and voices of those from the Harlem Renaissance era. It is a collaboration with Remy Martin and Jermaine Dupri. Check it out on Youtube when you have the chance.
Last but not least, National Poetry Month also yields a chance for people to embrace their creativity. The most egalitarian aspect of National Poetry Month is that it gives all a chance to try their hand at creating a poem. Take this opportunity to put some lines down on paper, and see what you can come up with. You can also search for virtual poetry events, and perhaps try out sharing your work if you feel so inclined. There’s no “wrong” way to celebrate National Poetry Month—it’s a time of reflection and appreciation. Enjoy!
Marc W. Polite is a social commentator, author of “The Binge Watcher’s Guide to Black Mirror” and member of the Harlem Writers Guild.