Nationalized verse

"To what purpose, April, do you return again?"

— Edna St. Vincent Millay

Forget about taxes and the rain, April is all about poetry. The Academy of American Poets created National Poetry Month 13 years ago in an effort to bring more attention to the art of poetry. Now, Americans everywhere can read poetry, write poetry or hug a poet in April in honor of National Poetry Month.

The Academy's Web site ( lists large-scale poetry events and lets readers sign up to receive a poem a day via e-mail. If Ashland is any indication, the Academy's efforts to promote poetry are successful.

Both the Ashland Public Library and Bloomsbury Books are offering poetry collections, how-to guides and poet biographies.

Bloomsbury is embracing poetry month in a big way. In addition to hosting many readings throughout the month (visit for a complete list), the store has a great display of poetry books, including works by poets who have visited Ashland, such as Chautauqua guests Naomi Shihab-Nye, Alberto Rios, Ted Kooser and Robert Pinsky. It also has several anthologies, such as The Academy of American Poets' "Poem in your pocket: 200 Poems to Read and Carry." This anthology contains a sampling of popular poems, from Shakespeare to Sexton, in a rip-ready format. The idea is to tear an individual poem out of the book so you can literally carry it in your pocket.

There is even a Poem In Your Pocket Day, April 30, on which you are challenged to carry a poem along with you all day. The Academy's "Poem in your pocket" anthology is ready-made for this purpose, but you can also write your own poem. Read it to yourself, share with others or trade them like baseball cards. Make extra copies to slip into a co-worker's inbox or the kids' backpacks. Tuck them under windshield wipers on cars in the parking lot.

A few friends wonder why I get so excited about National Poetry Month. It's because poetry is fun, and April is a great excuse to force the fun on others. Personally, I think that if one doesn't already love poetry it is only because he or she hasn't found the right poem yet. Everyone can write poetry, and everyone can enjoy it. Bloomsbury Books is well aware of this. Its grand poetry display offers several books on how to write, read or just grow to love poetry.

My favorite part of Bloomsbury's display is the local poets section. Ashland is rich with poets. Readers can find all sorts of gems among the books and chapbooks by local writers, such as Stephen Dieffenbacher's "At the Boundary: A Cycle of Poems," a collection of gorgeous nature poems. Chapbooks are informal, self-published books. A lot of fans favor them over anthologies because they are inexpensive and allow close examination of one particular poet's work. Since chapbooks are usually homemade or designed to the poet's specifications, they can also provide a more personal view of the poet. Many contain art, photos, even handwritten notes. Check out Marcy Greene's "Jewel of the Lotus." Her spare poems about the nature of life and family are complemented by Japanese calligraphy.

Best of all, these are works by accessible people, poets you can hear at local readings or open mikes. A collection of poems by a local poet can give readers a new way of seeing the town, the people in it, and the everyday poetry of living in Ashland.

Tidings staff writer Vickie Aldous and Tidings correspondent Angela Howe-Decker alternate as author of the weekly column Quills & Queues.

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