April: Cruelest Month or Kindest? National Poetry Month

T. S. Eliot famously opened his classic poem “The Waste Land” by proclaiming April “the cruelest month,” and students everywhere might agree when April rolls around and teachers pull out their well-worn poetry unit. April is National Poetry Month, which for poetry lovers means the spotlight shines on their favorites, old and new. We encourage the celebration of poetry year round, but in honor of the 25th anniversary of this special designation, here are 25 new titles, ideas, and resources to mark the occasion.

1. Though she needs no real introduction, we would be remiss if we didn’t start our list with NY Times #1 bestseller Amanda Gorman and her forthcoming collection, which includes her inaugural poem, “The Hill We Climb.”

2. Invite your teens to participate in the Dear Poet project, where young people get to engage directly with award-winning poets, such as Janice Lobo Sapigao:

3. New from Workman is the collection You Don’t Have to Be Everything: Poems for Girls Becoming Themselves, edited by Diana Whitney and featuring an embarrassment of poetic riches, including US Poet Laureate Joy Harjo, Ada Limón, Elizabeth Acevedo, and Franny Choi.

This collection is divided into sections reflecting the common emotions of a young person, such as seeking, loneliness, or shame, and it insists on the power and value of a wide and diverse array of voices, unafraid to raise the difficult question or tackle the taboo topic. Accompanied by vibrant art, these poems echo Mary Oliver (also included in the collection) and her reminder that “you do not have to be good.”

4. Participate in Poem in Your Pocket Day and share a #pocketpoem on social media on April 29.

5-12. Novels in Verse! ICYMI, here are the 2022 Selected Lists nominated titles featuring poetry (with links to those with featured reviews):

13. Join in the first-ever Virtual Poetry and the Creative Mind gala – Thursday, April 29 at 7:30 ET. Register today!

14. If you don’t already have it, add Kevin Young’s brilliant anthology to your collection: African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle and Song

15-17. Create a whole wall of blackout poetry or erasure poetry made by teens. Here are some inspiring examples:

Here’s Kleon with a basic introduction to the form:

18. Find your state’s Poet Laureate and make a display of their work. And if your state does not yet have a Youth Poet Laureate, work with the National Youth Poet Laureate program to make the honor a reality for the teens in your state.

19. For younger teens, or as a curriculum support in ELA classrooms, try Nikki Grimes’s newest: Legacy: Women Poets of the Harlem Renaissance

Grimes uses the Golden Shovel method to pair original poems with selections from the Harlem Renaissance, which is a brilliant technique and would be a great way to introduce young writers to a new way of thinking about poetry.

20. The Poetry Unbound podcast is perfect for anyone who loves words or even just wants a short break from the hurry of life. Each short episode is contemplative and soothing. Turn an underused corner of the library into a listening corner and see what 15 minutes of meditation on a poem can do!

21-22. For alternative takes on classic poetry, try the new translation of Beowulf from Maria Dahvana Headley or Mary Jo Bang’s illustrated smash of Dante’s Inferno.

23-25. With new and forthcoming titles, the questions swirl: Will they end up on YALSA’s Selected Lists? Will they land the coveted awards? Even if they don’t, there’s a book for every reader and a reader for so many different kinds of books, especially novels in verse! Here are three to watch for:

Call Me Athena: Girl from Detroit by Colby Cedar Smith
Starfish by Lisa Fipps

Amber & Clay by Laura Amy Schlitz