As the staff of the Poetry and Literature Center has moved to working remotely, and a number of our spring events—including our Poet Laureate’s Spring Closing—have been canceled, we’ve talked about how we might promote poetry virtually. Of course, we have our Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature (with 50 newly digitized recordings coming your way next week for National Poetry Month) and our Poetry of America feature, along with Poet Laureate projects like Juan Felipe Herrera’s “The Technicolor Adventures of Catalina Neon” and Billy Collins’ Poetry 180.
All of the above can be helpful for parents or teachers who are suddenly teaching from home in the midst of a “stay-at-home” directive, but today I would like to highlight a popular online feature by the Academy of American Poets that fosters an active engagement with both poems and the poets who write them—including a number of Poets Laureate.
As part of its National Poetry Month programming in April, the Academy promotes “Dear Poet”—which the org describes as “a multimedia education project that invites young people in grades five through twelve to write letters in response to poems written and read by award-winning poets.” This year’s version includes our current Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo, as well as former laureate Natasha Trethewey. It also includes the 2019 Poet Laureate Fellows, who had their orientation in the Library of Congress’ historic Jefferson Building and participated in readings at the 2019 National Book Festival. In fact, their “Dear Poet” videos were recorded in our Poetry Room—you can see the room’s distinctive teal walls in the background.
Fellows who recorded their “Dear Poet 2020” feature at the Library include:
- Grace Cavalieri (Laureate of MD)
- Paisley Rekdal (Laureate of UT)
- Adrian Matejka (Laureate of IN)
- Jaki Shelton Green (Laureate of NC)
- Jeanetta Calhoun Mish (Laureate of OK)
- Claudia Castro Luna (Laureate of WA)
- Molly Fisk (Laureate of Nevada County, CA)
- Fred L. Joiner (Laureate of Carrboro, NC)
- Ed Madden (Laureate of Columbia, SC)
- Raquel Salas Rivera (Laureate of Philadelphia, PA)
- Kim Shuck (Laureate of San Francisco, CA)
- TC Tolbert (Laureate of Tucson, AZ)
So to all parents and teachers out there looking for ways to get some poetry into their students’ lives: here’s a way you can do so, by connecting to laureates in your city or county or state—and to the U.S. Poets Laureate, too!