Dylan Thomas said, "The world is never the same once a good poem has been added to it," and there's no better month to appreciate that wisdom than this one. April is National Poetry Month, and Poem In Your Pocket Day is April 18. These observances were created by the Academy of American Poets in 1996 and 2002, respectively, to celebrate poetry and its importance in American culture. See their website, www.poets.org, for more information and to subscribe to a daily poem email.
To celebrate this epical month, carry a favorite poem with you, read a poem to your children, add a poem to your emails, or post a poem to a public bulletin board. For a smattering of classics, see "Americans' Favorite Poems" edited by Robert Pinsky and Maggie Dietz, or Harold Bloom's "The Best Poems of the English Language." For contemporary poets, thumb through "The Best American Poetry 2012" or "Time You Let Me In: 25 Poets Under 25" by Naomi Shihab Nye. The library has anthologies of poems on nature, animals, Florida, vampires, war, and -- of course -- love.
Another way to Celebrate National Poetry Month and Poem in Your Pocket Day is to become a poet yourself. See "Poetry Matters: Writing a Poem From the Inside Out," by Ralph Fletcher for writing advice, and use "Poet's Market" to find competitions and publications to submit your verses. Gather your friends together for an impromptu poetry slam, which is a competition for people to read aloud their own poems on stage. Learn how in "Hewitt's Guide to Slam Poetry & Poetry Slam," by Geof Hewitt.
Poetry has deep roots in our state's history. Many Floridians readily identify Key West with Ernest Hemingway (and his six-toed felines), but Key West was also a home and vacation spot for many poets, such as Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop and Wallace Stevens. The library has biographies about these poets and anthologies of their writing. If you're in the mood for a road trip, see Carol Fitzgerald's "Florida Literary Landmarks," which includes sites in Key West as well as Venice, Daytona Beach and St. Augustine.
Novel-length poems, called verse novels, are trendy with teenagers, though many have enough emotional depth to appeal to adults. "Out of the Dust," by Karen Hesse is about a teen girl facing an unfathomable family tragedy against the back drop of the Dust Bowl. In "What My Mother Doesn't Know," author Sonya Sones parses down the enormity of a coming of age love story into funny and moving free verse.
If after all this poetry reading you need a fiction fix, grab a novel with a poetic protagonist. "Varamo," by César Aira, is an acclaimed, though strangely-written novella about an ordinary Panamanian man who becomes an overnight poetic success.
Speaking Volumes, written by Manatee County Public Library System staff members, is published each Sunday.