Rhyme and Reason: The Black Voice During National Poetry Month

The choice of April for National Poetry Month was inspired by the triumphs of Black History Month in February and Women's History Month in March.

Rhyme and Reason: The Black Voice During National Poetry Month

April 1 marks the commencement of the biggest celebration of literature globally: National Poetry Month. This annual observance is a tribute to the profound significance of poetry in our culture and society. Poetry, throughout history, has served as a conduit for expression, resistance, and activism.

For generations, poetry has played a pivotal role in amplifying Black voices and providing a platform for Black narratives. Black poets have wielded their craft to articulate their experiences throughout American history – from the horrors of slavery and segregation to the fervor of the Civil Rights Movement and the urgency of Black Lives Matter. Artists have and will always be on the frontlines of every revolution. When we share our stories proudly and profoundly they impact culture in many ways.

The choice of April for National Poetry Month was inspired by the triumphs of Black History Month in February and Women's History Month in March. This decision has proved instrumental in championing Black poets and fostering their growth in the publishing industry, driving sales and cultivating new readerships. Academy of American Poets, in National Poetry month of 2021 invited the public to "vote" for the poet they most desired to see on a postage stamp. Langston Hughes, a luminary of the Harlem Renaissance, emerged as the clear favorite, and in January 2002, the United States Postal Service issued a stamp in his honor.

From the establishment of National Poetry month in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, it has continued to shine a spotlight on the art of poetry, honoring living poets, and commemorating the legacies of those who came before. It serves as a poignant reminder of poetry's unparalleled ability to encapsulate the intricacies of human emotion and existence, rendering it accessible and pertinent to a wide audience. The initiative has garnered remarkable success, with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets alike embracing the month to engage in performances, readings, and the dissemination of poetry. 

If you're inclined towards attending an open mic or showcasing your own work, consider exploring a few events in South Jersey or virtual spaces:

  • Open Heart Poetry (A Unique Christian Open Mic Experience)
    • Date: April 26th, 2024
    • Time: TBD
    • Location: 19 Everett Alley, Trenton, NJ 08611
    • Tickets: $25, available for purchase here
  • Success 1st Poetry Workshop
    • Date: April 19th, 2024
    • Time: 6-9pm
    • Location: Rowan College at Gloucester County, 1400 Tanyard Rd, Sewell, NJ 08080
    • Tickets: $5, available for purchase here

Throughout the years, National Poetry Month has introduced an array of activities and customs to engage the public. Noteworthy initiatives include "Poem in Your Pocket Day," encouraging individuals to carry a poem to share with others, and the distribution of free books and resources to assist educators and librarians in promoting poetry.

The Academy of American Poets also hosts an annual poster contest to commemorate the occasion, featuring submissions from students to esteemed designers. To learn more about their endeavors and events, visit poets.org.

The impact of National Poetry Month transcends mere awareness and appreciation; it has played a pivotal role in supporting poets and the publishing industry, bolstering sales and nurturing new readerships.

As National Poetry Month continues to evolve, it remains a testament to the enduring power of poetry to inspire, console, and connect us, reflecting the diverse voices and experiences that shape our world.

(This story was produced as part of the Center for Cooperative Media at Montclair State University's South Jersey Information Equity Project fellowship and supported with funding from the Independence Public Media Foundation, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation, and the NJ Civic Information Consortium.)

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