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Saturday, Sep 25, 2021

Celebrating National Poetry Month with virtual readings

National Poetry Month was established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets. Each year, the month seeks to encourage the reading, writing, education and support of poetry. People of any skill level — whether you write poetry yourself, enjoy reading the art form or don’t know the difference between assonance and alliteration — can celebrate poetry this month and all year by participating in the myriad of virtual events described below.

All of the events are free and open to the public via Zoom, though a donation from viewers is recommended in order to continue the livelihood of poetry.

Cave Canem Poets

Proudly self-described as “a home for Black poetry,” Cave Canem was founded in 1996 by Toi Derricotte and Cornelius Eady “to remedy the under-representation and isolation of African American poets in the literary landscape,” according to its mission and history.

They have grown exponentially from a grassroots organization into a nationally recognized force that hosts, educates and inspires hundreds of poets every year. They host monthly, wide-ranging events, including workshops, roundtable talks, readings and festivals.

Events for April included the All that You Touch / You Change Poetry Festival April 7 and a birthday reading celebrating Toi Derricotte April 10.

COUPLET Reading Series 

Hosted by poet Leah Umansky, the COUPLET Reading Series is a quarterly event that features readings by both up-and-coming and renowned poets.

This month’s edition will be live on April 24 and is in celebration of National Poetry Month. It includes work by Martha Collins, Laura Cronk, Rebecca Morgan Frank, Nathan McClain, Aimee Nezhukumatathil and Elizabeth Lindsey Rogers.

Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance

While MWPA primarily serves the literary scene of Maine, the online events are open so that anyone can join — and in terms of events, there are many to choose between, from readings and talks to writer workshops.

April’s events included ARTWORD, an exploration of the relationship between visual and literary arts, on April 13 and 21 and a conversation between poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Stuart Kestenbaum on April 15.

Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Based in New York City, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe “champions the use of poetry, jazz, theater, hip-hop and spoken word as means of social empowerment for minority and underprivileged artists,” according to its website. It is supported by the National Endowment for the Arts and has been endorsed by Beats poet Allen Ginsberg.

Its calendar boasts frequent open mics and poetry slams in addition to activities related to hip hop, theater and education.

The Poetry Center at San Francisco State University

SFSU’s Poetry Center shows about 30 poetry-centered performances, readings and conversations each year, going back to 1954. They have carefully archived these events so that thousands of hours of past poetry are still accessible today.

Recent readings included the Mazda Writer in Residence April 7 and 8 and about the intersection of the environment and poetry on April 17.

The Poetry Center at the University of Arizona

University of Arizona’s Poetry Center serves to enrich the literary scene in Tucson, but it has also become a prominent center for Southwestern American poetry overall with its expansive collection of contemporary poetry.

Exhibitions, readings and lectures are all available for online viewing. Poet Leslie Marmon Silko performed a reading on April 13, and The Book Objects exhibition will take place through June.

Poets in Pajamas

A bi-monthly event where a poet is selected to read and engage with the audience every other Sunday, PiP showcases a diverse range of writers, most of whom are fresh, new voices to the literary field.

Poet S. Brook Corfman gave a reading on April 11, and Brody Parrish Craig will read on April 25.

The Poetry Project

Since the 1960s, the Poetry Project has strongly believed in poetry as a force for change and “has expanded access to literature, education, and opportunities for sharing one's creative work in a counter-hierarchical, radically open space and community,” according to its website. It achieves its mission through readings, lectures, workshops and other events.

Readings in early April included  Martha King and Margaret Randall April 7 and Trevor Ketner and Justin Phillip Reed April 8.

Segue Reading Series

The Segue Reading Series is supported by the Segue Foundation, which “has been serving the community as a multi-service arts organization since 1977,” so written on its home page. It played a critical role in the Language poetry movement of the ‘60s and ‘70s. Now, it hosts weekly readings in the fall, winter and spring months.

April poets included Will Alexander and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge on the 10th and Brenda Iijima and Simone White on the 17th.

BONUS: For more specific poetry events you should support this April, check out the 22nd Annual NYC Teen Poetry Slam, which streamed on April 10; the NOLA Poetry Festival, which has an activity planned every day this month; the O, Miami Poetry Festival, which is full of workshops and readings you can attend and the Hugh C. Hyde Living Writers' Series, hosted by San Diego State University, which has two remaining readings scheduled through April.


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