Averyt: Poetry Month

Apr 30, 2019

For more than 20 years, April has been observed as National Poetry Month. It’s a time when poetry is shared across the country at readings and in workshops, on stage and in living rooms. When school children and adults are encouraged to read poetry, to memorize a favorite poem, or try their hand at writing one.

Our state boasts a long line of resident poets from Robert Frost to David Budbill, Ruth Stone, Galway Kinnell and Major Jackson. So poetry month is celebrated here with enthusiasm.

It’s the month when Randolph and St Johnsbury become Poem Towns, and Montpelier transforms itself from Capital City to PoemCity. On store windows, doors and public venues throughout Montpelier, hundreds of poems by Vermonters of all ages are posted.

Recently, I walked with a fellow poet through PoemCity, pausing along the way to read the poetry of local Vermonters. My friend had had a poem in the event before, but this was my first time to have one displayed this way. It felt good to be in the company of such creative energy.

One of my favorite Poetry Month traditions is an event called A Poem in Your Pocket Day. The idea is to tuck a poem or two into your pocket to give away to friends or strangers. It could be an old favorite poem, a new discovery or one of your own. The point is to share it.

Contemporary poet Elizabeth Alexander says poetry is 'the human voice.' Poet Mary Oliver calls it a 'life-cherishing force', adding that poems are 'as necessary as bread in the pockets of the hungry'. So, I love this practice of handing out poems as a token of spirit.

One of the beauties of a designated 'month' is to inspire ideas that carry into the rest of the year. What better way to honor poetry throughout the year, than to speak it, to listen to it and to share it.