I Have Grown Fat Reading Poetry

But that is the fault of neither the poets nor their poems. (Except perhaps for one or two poems about delicious meals.)

Truth be told, I would probably have gotten fat even if I were illiterate. Probably fatter.

Poems are high-calorie brain food, but they so fire the mind that the calories burn off as quickly as they can be consumed.

It is a shame that more people do not read poetry because most of us who do read it have eventually found poets whose work speaks to us in very powerful, if not always easily explainable, ways. There is nothing quite like discovering a work with that sort of resonance.

Poetry can become a lifelong habit, but unlike destructive addictions, poetry does not have to be consumed in larger and larger quantities to achieve the same high. In fact, as I have begun to slow down with age, I have found myself reading and re-reading certain passages of poems that I have already read several dozen times.

Unlike prose, poetry explores the things that we struggle to explain with words because they cannot be explained completely with words. The words themselves are evidence of our determination to understand and proof of the limits to our understanding.

Every year since 1996, April has been celebrated as National Poetry Month.

Each year, the National Poetry Foundation distributes more than 125,000 copies of a poster promoting the reading, writing, and appreciation of poetry.

This is the 2015 poster, drawn from Mark Strand’s poem, “Eating Poetry”:

National Poetry Month 2015

The complete text of Strand’s poem can be found at: http://www.poets.org/poetsorg/poem/eating-poetry

Copies of the poster can be ordered by filling out the form available at: http://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/form/poster-request-form

The poster is free to anyone in the U.S., but donations are welcome to defray the costs of producing and distributing the poster, as well as other costs related to promoting National Poetry Month.

The archive of posters from previous years, which have become collector’s items and are available for purchase, is available at: http://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/poster-gallery

The following is taken from a FAQ page on National Poetry Month:

What is National Poetry Month? 

National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of readers, students, K-12 teachers, librarians, booksellers, literary events curators, publishers, bloggers, and, of course, poets marking poetry’s important place in our culture and our lives every April.

Who started it? 

Inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March), the Academy of American Poets established National Poetry Month in 1996. Along the way we enlisted a variety of government agencies and officials, educational leaders, publishers, sponsors, poets, and arts organizations to help. National Poetry Month is a registered trademark of the Academy of American Poets.

Why was April chosen for National Poetry Month? 

In coordination with poets, booksellers, librarians, and teachers, we chose a month when poetry could be celebrated with the highest level of participation. April seemed the best time within the year to turn attention toward the art of poetry—in an ultimate effort to encourage poetry readership year-round.

What are the goals of National Poetry Month? 

The goals of National Poetry Month are to:

–highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American poets

–encourage the reading of poems

–assist teachers in bringing poetry into their classrooms

–increase the attention paid to poetry by national and local media

–encourage increased publication and distribution of poetry books, and

–encourage support for poets and poetry.

The rest of the FAQ explains how teachers, libraries, other organizations, and individuals can get involved: http://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/national-poetry-month-faq


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