When is National Poetry Month? Always the month of April! It is celebrated every April in the United States and (since 1999) in Canada as well. Since 2000 Great Britain has celebrated a National Poetry Month each October.
World Poetry Day is on March 21, and was declared by UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) in 1999.
Origin of this Holiday
National Poetry Month is a celebration of poetry first introduced in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets as a way to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.
"National Poetry Month was inspired by the success of Black History Month, held each February, and Women's History Month, held in March. In 1995, The Academy of American Poets convened a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets, and teachers to discuss the need and usefulness of a similar month long holiday to celebrate poetry. The first National Poetry Month was held in 1996."
"In 1998, the Academy joined the American Poetry & Literacy Project to distribute 100,000 free books of poetry from New York to California during National Poetry Month. On April 22, President Clinton and the First Lady hosted a gala at the White House which featured Poets Laureate Robert Pinsky, Robert Hass, and Rita Dove."
"For National Poetry Month in 2001, the Academy 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."
"On April 5, 2005 the Empire State Building was illuminated with blue lights to mark the 10th anniversary of National Poetry Month."
"Each year, a special poster is commissioned by the Academy of American Poets for National Poetry Month, with almost 200,000 copies distributed for free. In the past, posters have been designed by noted graphic designers such as Chip Kidd and Milton Glaser. The 2007 poster was designed by Christoph Niemann."
"Like Black History Month, the celebration of poetry each April has grown and established itself organically, in both official and unofficial ways. Each year, publishers, booksellers, educators, and literary organizations use April to promote poetry: publishers often release and publicize their poetry titles in April, teachers and librarians focus on poetry units during the month; and bookstores and reading series frequently hold special readings."
"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." In addition, similar official National Poetry Month proclamation have been issued by mayors from towns and cities across the country, including New York City, Los Angeles, Chicago, Tucson, and Washington, D.C."
Poetry & the Creative Mind
"In 2002, the Academy organized the first Poetry & the Creative Mind gala to raise funds in support of National Poetry Month, and it has become an annual event. Each year the Academy invites some of America’s leading artists, scholars, and public figures to read favorite, canonical poems. Hosted each year by the two-time Academy Award winning actress Meryl Streep, the event has featured readings by Liam Neeson, Tony Kushner, Maya Lin, Sam Waterston, Suzan-Lori Parks, Minnie Driver, Dan Rather, Agnes Gund, Frank Rich, Diane von Furstenberg, Wynton Marsalis, Alan Alda, Wendy Whelan, Mike Wallace, Dianne Wiest, Oliver Sacks, Gloria Vanderbilt, William Wegman, and Christopher Durang, among others."
"National Poetry Month has also sparked some debate among writers, most notably from poets such as Charles Bernstein and Richard Howard. Critics suggest that National Poetry Month trivializes the art form and floods the market with books in a matter of just a few weeks, overwhelming readers."
International Poetry Celebrations
"Since 1999, National Poetry Month has been celebrated each April in Canada, where it is sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets and organized around a different annual theme."
"The British Festival “October is National Poetry Month” was founded in 2000 by Celtic bard Jim MacCool and was adopted by the Birmingham-based Performance Poetry Society that same year. From makeshift beginnings, National Poetry Month has been exploited by primary and secondary schools, colleges of further education, public library services, the prison estate, and to a lesser extent, more localised festivals. Professional poets appear in all corners of the United Kingdom under the aegis of the Performance Poetry Society, which co-ordinates a proportion of their efforts and ensures that they are paid a normal rate for their appearances."
"In England, National Poetry Day is celebrated on the first Thursday of October. It has been organized since 1994 by the Poetry Society in England who choose a different theme each year to highlight particular poets and styles of poetry. In 1999, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared March 21 to be World Poetry Day. The purpose of the day is to promote the reading, writing, publishing and teaching of poetry throughout the world and, as the UNESCO session declaring the day says, to "give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements.""