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Wishing You a Very Happy National Poetry Month

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T. S. Eliot had his reasons for calling April the “cruellest month“—but the advent of National Poetry Month, on the other hand, gives us a pretty good reason to don our party hats every April.

At the Library of Congress, you luckily don’t need to look far for poetry resources. We have a wealth of poetry-related treasures on our Poetry & Literature website that we continue to champion and build upon. Below are some fun places to start.

Read 180 poems through Billy Collins’ Poetry 180 project! Launched in 2002, Poetry 180 was designed to give high school students a chance to listen to or read a poem on each of the 180 days of the school year. “Hearing a poem every day, especially well-written, contemporary poems that students do not have to analyze, might convince students that poetry can be an understandable, painless and even eye-opening part of their everyday experience,” Collins said of the project’s inception. It’s been 20 years since Poetry 180 launched, and Billy is still “refreshing the jukebox,” so to speak — check out the five new poems added this past fall, for instance. And of course you don’t have to be a high school student or teacher to appreciate what Poetry 180 has to offer: anyone can subscribe to Poetry 180 today! Since it’s April, here are some spring-y poems from the collection for you:

Eudora Welty photo
Eudora Welty. Photo by Bernard Gotfryd, 1980. Prints & Photographs Division.

Listen to poets and writers in the Archive of Recorded Poetry and Literature, which dates back to 1943 and contains audio recordings of celebrated poets and writers participating in literary events at the Library of Congress, along with sessions recorded in the Recording Laboratory in the Library’s Jefferson Building. Until 2015, when we began digitizing the collection, most of these recordings were only available to those who visited the Library of Congress in person. Hundreds of these recordings are now streaming online—easily accessible to anyone in the world with an internet connection. Later this month, we’ll release 10 newly digitized recordings to the online collection (including a rare reading by Eudora Welty and a jazz-infused event featuring Quincy Troupe and Michael S. Harper), so stay tuned for that announcement!

Immerse yourself in our “Poetry of America” series, a collection of field recordings from contemporary American poets. Poets choose a singular poem written by another American poet from any period in the nation’s history, record themselves reading the poem, and then provide commentary that speaks to how the poem connects to, deepens, or re-imagines a sense of the nation.

Joy Harjo photo
Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. Photo by Shawn Miller

Explore “Living Nations, Living Words,” Poet Laureate Joy Harjo’s signature project, which features work by 47 contemporary Native poets from across the nation in an interactive Story Map and poetry audio collection. If you’re interested in bringing this resource into the classroom, make sure to check out the “Living Nations” educator guide.

Of course, these are just a few ideas to get you into a poetry state of mind this month — here’s another trove of resources compiled by the Library’s blog for teachers. We’re also thrilled (and a little sad) to announce that the Library is hosting two closing events to celebrate the conclusion of Joy Harjo’s laureateship on April 28-29. Stay tuned for more on these events and other poetry-related news this month.

In the meantime, we wish you a very festive National Poetry Month! How are you celebrating?