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Before and After National Poetry Month

Thanks to muscular marketing and persistent promoting—notable traits of the Academy of American Poets—April has been established as the month to appreciate poetry. But there are other designated days and months during which everyone can celebrate creative writing, both as an art form and as yet another way to turn an average day into a holiday.

March, for example, is Small Press Month. The national promotion of independent publishers was jointly organized in 1996 by the Small Press Center (www.smallpress.org) and the Publishers Marketing Association (www.pma-online.org). Major events include the two-day Small Press Book Fair in midtown Manhattan, which typically draws 2,000 to 3,000 visitors.

For those who find it difficult to sustain their celebrations for an entire month, the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) last year established World Book Day (www.worldbookday.com). The first annual celebration of books and reading was acknowledged in over 30 countries. This year World Book Day is March 4.

As long as the public has an entire month to appreciate the riches of poetry, it's not unfair to spend a single day considering the sheaves of mediocre and even foul poetry that is written each year. Bad Poetry Day, August 18, is not sanctioned by any literary organization—it was dreamed up by Thomas and Ruth Roy, under the auspices of Wellcat Holidays (www.wellcat.com)—but one could argue that it's just as valid as the others. The Roys suggest the following activity on Bad Poetry Day: "Invite some friends over, compose some really rotten verse, and send it to your old high school teacher."

The good people at UNESCO also established International Literacy Day on September 8, 1965, and many organizations and governments throughout the world have since taken advantage of it to consider the ability of children and adults to read and write. The U.S. Congress declared July 2, 2000, a National Literacy Day, and although some states, cities, and counties occasionally declare a literacy month or week in their own jurisdictions, there is no permanent National Literacy Day in this country.

Last year the National Book Foundation (www.nationalbook.org), the nonprofit organization that sponsors the National Book Awards, launched a national campaign to encourage reading and to raise awareness of American literature during October. National Book Month happens to coincide with the announcement of the finalists for the annual awards.

November is National Novel Writing Month (www.nanowrimo.org). Founded by California freelance writer Chris Baty, it's one of the more straightforward designations of the year. Rather than sit idly by and merely appreciate literature, fiction writers are encouraged to write a 175-page novel during November. National Novel Writing Month supports the kamikaze approach to writing, which "forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

Kevin Larimer is the associate editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.

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Before and After National Poetry Month (March/April 2004)
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