Academy Rolls Out Red Carpet in April

Mary Gannon
From the March/April 2004 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

How to herald National Poetry Month, year nine? Look to the stars. That's what the Academy of American Poets will do on April 6 in New York City. The kickoff event, "Poetry and the Creative Mind," features quite a lineup: Academy Award-winning actor Kevin Kline, ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, fashion designer Cynthia Rowley, playwright Tony Kushner, and television journalist Diane Sawyer. It will be held at Alice Tully Hall, a 1,000-seat venue located at Lincoln Center.

Although the bill is impressive, some may note that it's missing the obvious—poets. But the thrust of the event, says Academy associate director Charles Flowers, is to showcase "creative people in other fields who have a relationship to poetry. We want to show the presence and influence of poetry across the arts." Tickets for reserved seats will be sold for $35, $50, and $75; tickets for $400 (and up) include admittance to a reception with the readers following the event.

Founded in 1996, National Poetry Month has become an established time to celebrate the genre—bookstores give better placement to poetry books and publishers release volumes, especially debuts, to benefit from the publicity momentum. Schools participate as well. "It's a focused period when students are encouraged to read and write poetry," says Flowers. From National Poetry Month's inception, the Academy has distributed promotional posters to schools, libraries, and bookstores. This year acclaimed graphic and architectural designer Milton Glaser has designed the poster, 175,000 copies of which will be distributed nationwide.

For the past few years the Academy has tried to initiate NPM projects that are national in scope, such as petitioning for stamps that feature poets and creating an online map of the United States with information about poetry resources in every state. This year, in part as a response to those who have criticized the notion of devoting just one measly month a year to poetry, the Academy is launching the online feature Poetry Almanac. "Twelve months of poetry history and events and landmarks, for both personal enjoyment and classroom use," says Flowers. New information will be posted daily to Poetry Almanac all year, and each month will focus on a theme such as "Summer Blockbusters: Poetry on the Radio, Television, & at the Movies"; "I Hear America Singing: Poetry & Music"; and "Great Poetry Debates, Manifestos, & Criticism." April's theme? "30 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month."

For more information, visit the Academy's Web site at

Mary Gannon is the deputy editor of Poets & Writers Magazine.