Reading & Literacy

Poetry Roundup: Eight Tools to Celebrate April’s National Poetry Month

By Helen Yoshida — April 07, 2014 3 min read
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Established in 1996 during the month of April by the Academy of American Poets, National Poetry Month seeks to call Americans’ attention to the craft of poetry, living poets, the country’s poetic heritage, and literary journals. Students can be introduced and inspired to write poetry with these educational resources. Teachers can reference the current news about a troublesome clash between the Ted Hughes estate and the poets’ biographer or have a discussion about W.H. Auden’s quiet acts of generosity.

Resources and Contests

The New York Times Serendipitous Poetry feature can help introduce elementary and middle school students to poetic devices and haiku. Young poets can expand their vocabulary with Washington, D.C.'s public library’s blog series Your Friday Five--five favorite poetry resources and books centered around a theme and selected by the staff in the teen and children’s sections every week. High school students can share their poetry on Power Poetry, a mobile poetry community for youth. Students age 13 to 19 can compete in the fifth annual The New York Times Found Poetry Contest. All poems must be submitted by the deadline of April 29.

Teachers can browse the Poets and Writers Magazine‘s The Time Is Now page for poetry prompts which are uploaded every Tuesday. Educators can peruse the Academy’s 30 Ways to Celebrate, for fun ideas on incorporating poetry into the school day. Education Place’s National Poetry Month resources, which include K-8 activities integrated with art, science, and math, offer more tools for bringing poetry into the classroom. Be sure to take a look at Marlena Chertock’s recent Teaching Now blog post “Poem Trees, Lego Diagrams, and Other Ideas for Teaching National Poetry Month.”

Estate Wars

According to the British newspaper The Guardian, the Ted Hughes estate withdrew Shakespeare scholar Jonathan Bate’s access to the former British poet laureate’s private archives, barring him from quoting from Hughes’ work and demanding Bate return photocopies of privately held documents. Bate, a professor of English Literature at Oxford University, had almost finished writing his 100,000 word manuscript, which he began working on in 2010, when he was handed the unexpected news.

During the course of his research, Bate unearthed unpublished poems and Hughes’ previously unknown diary, written during Sylvia Plath’s last weeks. Bate told The Guardian that he supposed more surprises could crop up. The estate denied that their recent actions were intended to cover up any revelations about Hughes’ life, but did not clarify why it withdrew support.

As a result, Bates’ and his publisher agreed to terminate the book’s contract. He is currently rewriting the biography for HarperCollins and talking with his lawyers about whether he can paraphrase Hughes’ work under the exceptions in copyright law.

Good Men Are Hard to Find

In the March 20 issue of The New York Review of Books, Edward Mendelson explores the unseen life of W.H. Auden. His essay “The Secret Auden” juxtaposes the poet’s seemingly brash personality with his secret good deeds. Shortly after World War II Auden made an agreement with a European relief agency to pay for the school and college education of two war orphans and continued funding new pairs of orphans until he passed away in 1973. Auden also helped an elderly lady in his church congregation battle night terrors by sleeping outside her apartment door until she felt safe and advised unknown, young poets. Mendelson argues that Auden struggled with his public image as a literary hero and tried to resolve a cruel streak through committing generous acts.

A version of this news article first appeared in the BookMarks blog.