April is National Poetry Month in the U.S. It was first introduced and organized in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, as a celebration of American poetry, and a way to increase awareness and appreciation for the art of verse.
In a proclamation issued on April 1, 1996, President Bill Clinton declared: “National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poetry….Their creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture and inspire a new generation of Americans to learn the power of reading and writing at its best.”
For National Poetry Month in 2001, the Academy of American Poets invited people to “vote” for poets they most wanted to have a postage stamp. More than 10,000 people cast ballots, with Langston Hughes receiving the most votes. The vote tally was sent to the United States Postal Service, which issued a Langston Hughes stamp in January 2002.
In 2006, the Academy of American Poets launched Poem-a-Day, publishing one new poem on its website Poets.org each day during the month-long celebration. Poem-a-Day is now a daily, year-long series, which has been syndicated by King Features.
In 2012, the Academy of American Poets launched the Dear Poet project, which invites students to read and write poems during National Poetry Month, some of which are published on Poets.org. The project is accompanied by a lesson plan offered to K-12 teachers for free.
Each year, a special poster is commissioned by the Academy of American Poets for National Poetry Month, with almost 150,000 copies distributed to schools, libraries, and community centers for free.
– from Wikipedia
Poetry extends far beyond America’s national borders, and much farther back in time than the founding of this country. And this is a country of culturally diverse First Peoples, and waves of immigrants from around the globe. So I think that we should celebrate not just “American” Poetry, but Poetry in all its glorious history, both ancient and modern, and its vast variety of ever-evolving forms.
Maria Polydouri was born on April 1, 1902; Greek Neo-Romantic poet. One of her poems brought her attention from Literary circles at age 14. When she was 20, both her parents died within 40 days of each other. The poems which are regarded as her most important were written during the last four years of her life, while she was suffering from consumption (tuberculosis). She died in a sanatorium at age 28 in April 1930. Her two collections of poetry are The Chirps That Faint, and Echo Over Chaos.
As you probably expect, her poems are not happy ones, but in a time of global pandemic, this poem will speak to many of us.
To read Maria Polydouri’s poem “Today” click:
by Maria Polydouri
Today just before the light filled up the sky,
far off I heard bells sounding in the city.
Bells . . . why did I notice? As if sowing hate
the last shadows slowly and dolefully moved on.
Where have I left my sweet, childlike soul,
in what season, with what bell’s tune entwined?
In what season . . . and today to say my prayers
I stayed on bended knee in sorrow.
A prayer to beauty, to a forgotten mother,
to ignorance, to a smile, to the voice of a dream,
listening to the day’s bell of anguish
which sadly tolled an untimely death.
— translated by Georgia Theophillis Noble