Bring on the Poets, Bring on the Jazz

A president and his horn--Bill Clinton shows his appreciation of jazz. (photo by the Smithsonian Institute)

A president and his horn–Bill Clinton shows his appreciation of jazz. (photo by the Smithsonian Institute)

Having nothing at all to do with April Fool’s Day, events for both National Poetry and Jazz Appreciation Month got underway across the United States yesterday, April 1, 2010.

In Chicago, Nobel Prize winning poet Derek Walcott, whose latest book is White Egrets, helped kick off the poetry side of the month-long celebration with a free reading at the Art Institute of Chicago.  The jazz segment got help from a performance by the New York based Argentine bassist Pablo Aslan and his Quintet, which performed at the Smithsonian Institute’s National Museum of American History Carmichael Auditorium in Washington, D.C.

The Power of a Poet’s Voice

National Poetry Month was established by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Upon that occasion, then President Bill Clinton joined the celebration by issuing from the White House a letter of congratulations in which he noted the following:

“…America has been blessed by the powerful voices of our poets. Dedicated artists, innovators, and stewards of our language, they tell us not only who we are, but also who we can become. They distill our emotions, clarify our thoughts, and renew our spirits with the vigor of their words and the freshness of their perspective. National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today’s American poets .”
–former President Bill Clinton, April 1, 1996

The Academy of American Poets

The Academy of American poets itself was founded in 1934 by Marie Bullock, a patron of literature who was discouraged over what she felt was a lack of cultural and aesthetic integrity where poetry in the United States was concerned. By that time, the Harlem Renaissance had actually been in full swing for at least a decade but the now famous poets it produced would not receive proper recognition for several more decades to come.  Among them where such accomplished individuals as: Gwendolyn Bennett, Sterling Brown, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, James Weldon Johnson, Claude McKay, and Jean Toomer.

Newly published Poem in Your Pocket Anthology.

The annual celebration by the Academy of American Poets features a wide variety of events and programs designed to enhance public awareness of the value of poetry in general, increase its representation in school curriculums, sponsor readings, promote the publication of new books, and perhaps most significantly, share poetry.  To help accomplish this last goal, in 2009 the Academy launched Poem In Your Pocket Day, which this year will be observed on April 29. It also started the Poem-A-Day program that allows poetry lovers to receive a different poem by email every day throughout the month of April.

One of the strongest initiatives employed by the Academy to accomplish its poetic goals has been a request submitted to city mayors, asking them to issue official proclamations in support of National Poetry Month. Thus far, cities which have complied with the request include: New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago, Pensacola, Bridgeport, Portland, Tucson, Seattle, and Boston.

Please click here for: Poetry and jazz lovers kick off month-long celebrations Part 2

by Aberjhani

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