Celebrated each April since 1996, National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets to highlight the important role that poets have played in our culture over the centuries, and how they continue to do so in today’s ever-changing world.
Events range from distributing materials and ideas to schools, to encouraging engagement among people of all ages, and of course, poetry readings.
Several local Poets Laureate — a poet who has been officially appointed by a government or other institution — will be sharing their works as part of National Poetry Month this Saturday at the John F. Kennedy Library in Vallejo.
“Poetry has the power to break down isolation, generate compassion, and connect us one to another. Finding one’s own poetic voice is empowering, liberating,” said Mary Susan Gast, current Poet Laureate of Benicia, who will be reading at the event.
Many of the programs put on during National Poetry Month are aimed at young people, with the ACA providing free lesson plans and tip sheets for teachers to share with their students.
“I think poetry is a useful tool for kids to express their feelings, and I’d encourage all kids to explore their creative side,” said DL Lang, Vallejo Poet Laureate Emeritus.
Georgina Marie, Poet Laureate for Lake County, echoed that sentiment.
“I started writing poetry when I was a young teen experiencing depression. I was introduced to Sylvia Plath and learned that I could create art with my pain and have an outlet for what I couldn’t speak about aloud,” said Marie.
In addition to K-12 schools, the ACA partners with libraries around the country to share National Poetry Month programs, highlighting the important role the public institutions play in citizens’ lives.
Retired JFK Library worker Jeff Kingman, whose first book of poetry —“Beyond That Hill I Gather” — was published last year, helped organize this week’s celebration.
“As a library worker, we were always looking to engage the community through our programming,” said Kingman. “Since I was becoming immersed in the poetry world, I started putting on events.
“As a kid, libraries were a place of solitude for me,” continued Kingman. “But as a library-working adult, I learned the socially interactive, community-minded benefits of a good public library. It’s an important element of local culture.”
Lang, who said she would spend hours at her local library researching different topics for fun, agreed that libraries continue to be an important resource for local residents.
“Libraries are a safe haven for ideas, free speech, and a much-needed community space. They’re invaluable to me,” said Lang.
Sahs Gast: “I still am astounded at all the resources and wisdom libraries and librarians provide,”
Jeremy Snyder, Vallejo’s current Poet Laureate, is also scheduled to read along with other invited guests, and audience members will be invited to participate in an open-mic session at the end of the event.
“It is surely an honor to hold the title of Poet Laureate,” said Marie. “If I think back to my teen self, I would have never believed I’d have the ability to create community and share my voice.”
- If You Go:
- When: Saturday, 2 p.m.
- Where: John F. Kennedy Library, 505 Santa Clara St., Vallejo.
- Cost: Free.
- For more info: solanolibrary.com.