How to Celebrate National Poetry Month: 2020 Pandemic Edition

The 2020 National Poetry Month poster features the artwork of Samantha Aikman, winner of this year’s National Poetry Month Poster Contest for Students. Aikman’s design features a line from the poem “Remember” by current U.S. Poet Laureate, Joy Harjo: “Remember all is in motion, is growing, is you.”


In 2018, Traci Brimhall offered 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month. Below, she offers an updated version for 2020.


National Poetry Month began in 1996 through the Academy of American Poets. In their own words, “it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.”

Here are 30 ways you can celebrate National Poetry Month here in Manhattan, KS, starting on April 1, 2020. If you try one, post a picture in the comments or share on social media, tagging @englishkstate!

  1. The totally boss Joy Harjo is curating the Poem-A-Day for the Academy of American Poets this year. Sign up to receive a daily poem in your inbox.
  2. Read a poem aloud to your friends.
  3. Use the online resources of the Manhattan Public Library! They have poetry collections online!
  4. Chalk the sidewalk with a line from a poem that you love to share it with others. People need poems more than ever these days!
  5. Memorize a poem. It’s hard. I know. But then it’s in your brain basically forever.
  6. Read a poem aloud to a friend, roommate, romantic partner, or cat. Your cat will think you are cool. Your friends might also.
  7. Hand-copy a poem you really love into a journal. You will learn totally new things about it by doing that.
  8. Read this poem, and if you see me on campus in the future you can ask what line from it I have tattooed on my arm.
  9. Make a cake that Emily Dickinson once baked.
  10. Print a poem and doodle all around it. Now you’ve made art and can hang it in your kitchen above your cooling coconut cake.
  11. Write an exquisite corpse poem with friends.
  12. Speaking of friends, they are great. Invite them to a Zoom chat or group call and workshop each other’s poems.
  13. Check out the cool new socially distant reading series popping up, like this one: The Social Distance Reading Series.
  14. Support your local bookseller, like The Dusty Bookshelf in Aggieville or Wise Blood Booksellers in Westport, KS. You can still order online!
  15. Enjoy spring and hang your hammock between two trees and recall that poem you already memorized or enjoy that book you just bought from your local bookseller. That warmth you feel is part sun, part poetry.
  16. Play an instrument? Set a poem you love to music.
  17. Dance? Dance that poem. I’m not even sure what that means, but you should try it.
  18. Start a blog where you pair beloved poems with snack foods. I personally like to read T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” with Cheetos and William Carlos Williams’ “This Is Just to Say” with a perfectly ripe peach.
  19. Write a fan letter to a poet you love, alive or dead. If they’re alive, send it.
  20. Write a review of a poetry book on Goodreads.
  21. Read the poems in K-State’s literary journal, Touchstone.
  22. Re-read Where the Sidewalk Ends because those poems are great and full of weird joy.
  23. Sign up for a poetry class next fall! It is fun and basically makes this month’s awesomeness happen for 15 whole weeks.
  24. Write a poem about your mom. Mother’s Day is coming up. She’ll appreciate it. Maybe send flowers, too.
  25. Follow a poet on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook. Sometimes they say other cool and smart things throughout the year in addition to poems.
  26. Watch Dead Poets Society and feel excited about Shakespeare and poetry, and also sad about Robin Williams. Conflicting emotions is normal in both life and poems.
  27. Exchange a stanza made complete of emojis with a friend and then translate each other’s “poem.”
  28. Try translating a poem for real! Use the language skills you’ve got and let Google translate assist, but do your best to translate a poem written in another language.
  29. Subscribe to a poetry journal! You get really sweet mail!
  30. Write a poem for spring. Things are growing. It’s warming up. We’re going to make it.

Traci Brimhall, Associate Professor


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