National Poetry Month may be just a whisper in the ears of some — especially those of Penn’s poets.
The month has been on calendars across the country since 1996, when the Academy of American Poets first created it. Many in the poetry community, however, find that April’s special designation does not make poetry resonate louder than it would any other month.
“We have poetry every month at the Writers House,” said Jessica Lowenthal, director of the Kelly Writers House.
“I don’t think having a particular month for poetry makes it more accessible to non-poets,” she added, stressing instead the importance of holding events regularly — such as events at the Writers House, which are free and open to the public.
The idea is like having a National Music Month in which “we should all listen to music and turn on our radios,” said English professor and poet Charles Bernstein. He added that the question for him is not about whether to focus on poetry, but what types to highlight.
“Philadelphia has fantastic local poetry” available year-round, Bernstein said.
He pointed out that students always have the opportunity to take poetry writing classes, attend poetry events at the Writers House and join clubs such as Penn’s spoken-word poetry group Excelano Project.
According to English professor and Faculty Director Al Filreis, the Writers House — “a literary site that produces poetry events and projects pretty much continuously” — has only once put on a program explicitly for Poetry Month in its 15-year existence.
The Writers House will host regular poetry events this month, such as speakeasies held every other Wednesday, including one this week. There will also be a student production of English professor Bob Perelman’s The Alps on Tuesday, as well as a reading by Swedish poets Jorgen Gassilewski and Anna Hallberg on April 20.
Local businesses will also be hosting poetry events. The Bubble House, at 3404 Sansom St., will host poets Miriam Kotzin and Harriet Levin this Tuesday. However, many businesses already feature local poets on a regular basis, including Green Line Cafe, which holds monthly poetry events on the second Tuesday of every month.
“There’s a great fabric of poetry in the city already,” Lowenthal said.
Filreis said the idea of Poetry Month seems to be little more than a marketing scheme.
“Poetry is thriving in the United States,” he wrote in an e-mail. “Perhaps because poets and poetry’s supporters believe that it is thriving, they don’t feel the need to depend on such a scheme.”Comments powered by Disqus
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