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National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month

National Poetry Month was created by the Academy of American Poets in 1996.  The Academy was so inspired by the successful celebrations of Black History Month (February) and Women’s History Month (March) that they decided to have their own special month of celebration. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world and celebrates poetry’s vital place in our culture.

30 suggestions on how you can celebrate National Poetry Month



Quotes about Poetry by Poets

Rupi Kaur photo

When I was little, my dad told me about Anandpur Sahib and the court of Guru Gobind Singh. That we came from a tradition of poets, warriors and artists who created when it was illegal to create... we're groomed to be reckless in the defense of what we feel is right.

-Rupi Kaur
Photo Credit: Rupi Kaur, Canadian Performance Artist by P.L. Tandon (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED)

Adrienne Rich Photo

The moment of change is the only poem.

-Adrienne Rich
Photo Credit: Adrienne Rich by K. Kendall (CC BY 2.0)

Jean Toomer Photo

I am not less poet; I am more conscious of all that I am, am not, and might become.

-Jean Toomer
Photo Credit: Drawing of Jean Toomer by Winold Reiss by J.hansen.23 (CC BY PD)

Emily Dickinson picture

If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?

-Emily Dickinson
Photo Credit: Emily Dickinson daguerreotype 1847 by Amherst College (CC BY PDM 1.0 DEED)

Anne Waldman Photo

If the world is safe for poetry, it can be safe for many other things.

-Anne Waldman
Photo Credit: Anne Waldman Reading 2.16.15 by Kelly Writers House (CC BY 2.0 DEED)

Federico Garcia Lorca

The poem, the song, the picture, is only water drawn from the well of the people, and it should be given back to them in a cup of beauty so that they may drink - and in drinking understand themselves.

-Federico Garcia Lorca
Photo Credit: Federico García Lorca en un patio de la Alhambra de Granada, circa 1922 by Colección Fundación Federico García Lorca (CC BY PD-US)

Famous American Poets

Alice Walker Photo

Alice Walker

Author Alice Walker had been an acclaimed poet, short story writer, and novelist since the late 1960s, long before her Pulitzer Prize-winning 1982 book The Color Purple and its 1985 film adaptation stirred emotions for its brutal portrayal of domestic violence. Walker embraces complex and painful topics. Full bio. Photo Credit: Alice Walker, Auditorium Speaker by American Library Association (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED)

Allen Ginsberg Photo

Allen Ginsberg

The American poet Allen Ginsberg (1926-1997) was one of the most celebrated figures in contemporary American literature. He was a leading member of the "Beat Movement" and helped lead the revolt against "academic poetry" and the cultural and political establishment of the mid-20th century.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Allen Ginsberg 1979 by Hans van Dijk for Anefo. (CC BY CCO 1.0 DEED)

e.e. Cummings photo

E.E. Cummings

The American poet Edward Estlin Cummings (1894-1962) presented romantic attitudes in technically experimental verse. His poems are not only ideas but crafted physical objects which, in their nonlogical structure, grant fresh perspectives into reality.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Cummings in 1953 by Walter Albertin (CC BY NO KNOWN RESTRICTIONS)

Edgar Allen Poe Picture

Edgar Allen Poe

Unquestionably one of America's major writers, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) was far ahead of his time in his vision of a special area of human experience--the "inner world" of dream, hallucination, and imagination. He wrote fiction, poetry, and criticism and was a magazine editor. More than a century after his death, Poe continued to inspire many prominent authors. Full bio. Photo Credit: Edgar Allen Poe by Mathew Benjamin Brady (CC BY PD)

Ezra Pound Photo

Ezra Pound

Ezra Pound 's influence on the development of poetry in the twentieth century has unquestionably been greater than that of any other poet. No other writer has written as much poetry and criticism or devoted as much energy to the advancement of the arts in general. Nor has any writer been the focus of so much or such heated controversy.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Ezra Pound 1963 by Walter Mori by user Materialscientist (CC BY PD)

Gary Soto Photo

Gary Soto

Hailed as one of the top Mexican-American writers in the United States, Gary Soto is also one of the most versatile. Winning awards and acclaim for his poetry in the years after he completed his education, Soto has also written short stories and autobiographical sketches. Almost single-handedly, he has striven to create a literature for young Mexican-American readers.  Much of Soto's writing is drawn on his recollections of growing up poor in California's agricultural Central Valley.  Full bio. Photo Credit: 2017 Library Laureates Benefit Gala: Gary Soto by Friends of the San Francisco Public Library (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 DEED)

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow Picture

Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

The insistent moral tone, sentimentality, and serene idealism of the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882) made him an extremely popular author at home and abroad in the 19th century.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow by Hanstaingl. (CC BY PD/Project Gutenberg)

Langston Hughes Picture

Langston Hughes

One of the most talented and prolific writers to emerge from the Harlem Renaissance of the 1920s, Langston Hughes enjoyed a long and successful career as a poet and author of short stories, novels, magazine and newspaper articles, plays, and numerous other works.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Langston Hughes by Jack Delano/user Holly Cheng (CC BY PD)

Maya Angelou Photo

Maya Angelou

In addition to her books of autobiography, Angelou wrote several volumes of poetry that further explore the South, racial confrontation, and the triumph of black people against overwhelming odds.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Portrait photograph of Maya Angelou with a copy of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings in Los Angeles, November 3, 1971 by FunnyMath (CC BY PD)

Nikki Giovanni Photo

Nikki Giovanni

One of the best-known African American poets to reach prominence during the late 1960s and early 1970s, Nikki Giovanni has continued to create poems that encompass a life fully experienced. Her unique and insightful verses testify to her own evolving awareness and experiences as a woman of color: from child to young woman, from naive college freshman to seasoned civil rights activist, and from daughter to mother. Frequently anthologized, Giovanni's poetry expresses strong racial pride and respect for family.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Nikki Giovanni at the 2023 Hyde Park Jazz Festival by Goose Green Photography (CC BY 4.0 DEED)

Oliver Wendell Holmes Picture

Oliver Wendell Holmes

Oliver Wendell Holmes (1809-1894), American physician and author, contributed to the advancement of medicine and wrote witty essays and popular poems. Full bioPhoto Credit: Oliver Wendell Holmes 1855 by Hezekiah Wright Smith (CC BY PD)

Phillis Wheatley Picture

Phillis Wheatley

Phillis Wheatley (ca. 1753-1784), the first African American woman poet, was a celebrated literary figure in Boston during the Revolutionary era. Full bio. Photo Credit: Memoir and Poems of Phillis Wheatley by William S. Pendleton (CC BY PD)

Ralph Emerson Picture

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Whether he wrote prose or verse, Emerson was a poet with a poet's gift of metaphor. Both his lectures and his published works were filled from the first with telling phrases, with wisdom startlingly expressed. His next book, after the second series of essays, was a volume of his poems. They proved to be irregular in form and movingly individual in expression. Full bio. Photo Credit: Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882 (CC BY PD)

Robert Frost Photo

Robert Frost

Robert Lee Frost (1874-1963) was an intentionally American and traditionalist poet in an age of internationalized and experimental art. He used New England idioms, characters, and settings, recalling the roots of American culture, to get at universal experience. Even in the 21st century, Frost and his work continue to be studied by scholars around the world.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Robert Frost by Walter Albertin (CC BY PD/NO RIGHTS RESTRICTIONS KNOWN)

T.S. Eliot Photo

T.S. Eliot

Thomas Stearns Eliot (1888-1965), American-English author, was one of the most influential poets writing in English in the 20th century, one of the most seminal critics, an interesting playwright, and an editor and publisher.  Full bio. Photo Credit: T.S. Eliot by Ellie Koczela (CC BY-SA 4.0 DEED)

Henry David Thoreau Picture

Henry David Thoreau

Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862) was an American writer, a dissenter, and a transcendentalist. He is best known for his classic book WaldenFull bio. Photo Credit: Portrait photograph from a ninth-plate daguerreotype of Henry David Thoreau by B.D. Maxham (CC by PD)

Walt Whitman Picture

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman (1819-1892) is generally considered to be the most important American poet of the 19th century. He wrote in free verse, relying heavily on the rhythms of native American speech.  Full bio. Photo Credit: Platinum print portrait of Walt Whitman by George C. Cox (CC BY-NC 2.0 DEED)

Poetry Films @ MiraCosta Library

Sylvia Plath Video

Sylvia Plath: Growth of a Poet

Through 13 of Plath's poems and excerpts from her letters, the members of The First Poetry Quartet trace the development of this gifted young American poet, who ended her life in 1963 at the age of 30.

Langston Hughes

Langston Hughes: His Life and Times

Pulitzer Prize winner Alice Walker and renowned Langston Hughes biographer Arnold Rampersad discuss experiences that shaped young Langston Hughes, how he came to be a writer, the beauty of his writing style, his practice of reaching out to aspiring writers, and the Harlem Renaissance as a literary and cultural watershed.

Poetry in America Video

Poetry in America

Poetry in America gathers distinguished interpreters from all walks of life to explore and debate 12 unforgettable American poems. Athletes and poets, politicians and musicians, architects, scientists, actors, entrepreneurs, and citizens of all ages join host and Harvard professor Elisa New to experience and share the power of poetry in this visually dazzling and archivally rich series.

Emily Dickinson Video

Emily Dickinson

While many of her literary peers achieved notoriety, “the woman in white” remained virtually unknown—by choice. The self-imposed obscurity of Emily Dickinson is just one of many aspects of her life that this program explores. Blending daguerreotypes, paintings, manuscripts, excerpts from Dickinson’s letters, and readings from nearly a dozen of her poems, this program presents the biography of one of America’s most unique and influential voices in poetry.

Walt Whitman Video

Walt Whitman

A self-styled sketch runs, “Walt Whitman, an American, one of the roughs, a kosmos.” He could have added journalist, carpenter, nurse, and one of the greatest poets in English. This program presents a unique literary biography, tracing Whitman’s childhood, various careers, and the evolution of the masterpiece that proved his lifelong work, Leaves of Grass. A collage of photos, paintings, and manuscripts accompanies excerpts of letters from Whitman and Ralph Waldo Emerson, as well as readings from sections of Leaves of Grass, such as “Song of Myself,” “I Sing the Body Electric,” and “Native Moments.”

Great African-American Poetry Performed

Great African-American Poetry Performed

On this episode of Camera Three, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee perform poetry about the African-American experience. Excerpts include verses from Paul Laurence Dunbar, Sterling Brown, Frank Horne, Countee Cullen, Langston Hughes, Gwendolyn Brooks, and Margaret Walker.

Poet's View: Intimate Profiles of Five Major Poets Video

Poet's View: Intimate Profiles of Five Major Poets

The Poet’s View is a unique film series presenting intimate portraits of five major American poets.