Virtual Bookshelf: National Poetry Month

painted mural with word "poetry"
Photo caption


(April 1, 2022)

April is National Poetry Month! Celebrate with these NEH-funded resources:

Poetry in America
The public television series Poetry in America premiered in 2018. This NEH-funded initiative, created by Harvard professor Elisa New and Verse Video Education, aims to bring poetry into living rooms and classrooms around the world and explore the ways in which human language connects us across time and space. The third season of Poetry in America is currently streaming, and the development of a fourth season with the theme “More Perfect Union” is now underway.

Red Comet: The Short Life and Blazing Art of Sylvia Plath
This NEH Public Scholars book by Heather Clark is a groundbreaking biography on the poet Sylvia Plath. Red Comet, which was a finalist for the 2021 Pulitzer Prize, draws upon never-before-accessed materials to explore the life and work of this famous American writer.

Lift Every Voice
The Lift Every Voice website features writers and actors such as Amanda Gorman and Mahershala Ali reading the work of African-American poets Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, Lucille Clifton, and others. The site is part of an NEH-funded project with Library of America that produced the anthology African American Poetry: 250 Years of Struggle & Song, edited by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture director, Kevin Young, along with an accompanying series of reading and discussion programs that features events around the country.

Academy of American Poets Archive
The archives of the Academy of American Poets were founded in 1934, and their collection contains writings and correspondence by notable American poets dating back nearly a century. A recent Preservation Assistance grant will allow the academy to prepare for its 90th anniversary by assessing and organizing materials that include photographs, audio recordings of poetry readings, and the papers of E. E. Cummings, Robert Frost, Lucille Clifton, and other well-known poets.

"Poetry and Prayer: Islamic Manuscripts from the Walters"
With the help of an NEH Preservation and Access grant, Baltimore’s Walters Art Museum developed an online exhibition of Islamic manuscripts—both devotional and non-religious—that date from the ninth through the nineteenth centuries. The images cover a range of genres, including scientific, poetic, historical, and epic works. They can be viewed for free on the museum’s website.

The Rossetti Archive
Dante Gabriel Rossetti was a famous painter, writer, and translator, considered one of the most important artistic forces in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Funded by an NEH Research grant in 2005, the online Rossetti Archive allows visitors to survey the poetry, illustrations, letters, and other works by Rossetti.

The Ecstatic Faith of Rumi
The NEH-supported radio program and podcast On Being (formerly Speaking of Faith) delves into questions of spirituality and faith in contemporary times. In this episode, host Krista Tippett, a 2013 National Humanities Medal recipient, discusses the thirteenth-century Muslim mystic and poet Rumi, who helped shape Muslim thought, with her guest Fatemah Keshavarz, professor of Persian and contemporary literature at the University of Maryland.

Walt Whitman
NEH has funded numerous projects on Walt Whitman, including this two-hour PBS American Experience documentary that takes viewers on a virtual tour of Walt Whitman’s New York and offers insights into the events and ideas that shaped the quintessential American poet. More about Whitman’s life and work can be found by exploring the online Walt Whitman Archive, a project at the University of Nebraska that NEH has supported for more than 15 years. Visitors can browse a vast collection of Whitman’s writing and correspondence, along with biographical summaries, audio recordings, and contemporaneous reviews of Whitman’s poetry.

I, Too, Sing America: Langston Hughes Unfurled
Langston Hughes, one of the leaders of the Harlem Renaissance, was an American poet, social activist, playwright, and novelist. With the Dream Documentary Collective, NEH helped fund a two-part documentary on the life of the writer and the legacy of his work. 

Amy Lowell Letters Project
Melissa Bradshaw in 2021 received an NEH Research Fellowship for the Amy Lowell Letters Project, a digital archive of the Pulitzer Prize-winning poet’s missives. Lowell, whose work includes a six-volume poetry collection, a John Keats biography, and countless essays, corresponded with a number of prominent literary figures over her 15-year career, and her letters offer a rare glimpse at the personalities who shaped early twentieth-century poetry.

Turn Left: The Story of City Lights Booksellers and Publishers
An NEH-funded documentary tells the story of Peter D. Martin and Lawrence Ferlinghetti, who in 1953 opened City Lights, a one-room bookstore in San Francisco. Turn Left follows the founders and their successors through the antiwar movement of the 1960s to the digital age, where City Lights remains a beacon of artistic freedom for San Francisco’s writers.

Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920s to the Present
In 2005, NEH awarded Lesley Madeleine Wheeler a Research Fellowship for her work on Voicing American Poetry: Sound and Performance from the 1920s to the Present. Published by Cornell University Press, Voicing America examines the work of Edna St. Vincent Millay, Langston Hughes, and James Merrill, among others, taking as its focus the concept of “voice” and the relationship between oral and print poetry.

The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin
Archie Burnett in 2009 received an NEH Research Fellowship to edit the first scholarly edition of Philip Larkin’s poetry. Published in 2014, The Complete Poems of Philip Larkin features previously unpublished work, historical analysis, and new commentary on Larkin’s many poems. The text also includes the poet’s own reflections on his work as well as Burnett’s analysis of Larkin’s place in the wider literary cannon.

The Plural of Us: Poetry and Community in Auden and Others
In 2014, NEH awarded Bonnie Costello a Research Fellowship for her work on The Plural of Us: Poetry and Community in Auden and Others, an examination of W. H. Auden’s use of the first-person plural “us.” Presented alongside the work of Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Elizabeth Bishop, and Wallace Stevens, Auden’s work brings to bear what the publisher calls “the communal function of poetry.”

Emily Dickinson Museum
In Amherst, Massachusetts, the Emily Dickinson Museum offers visitors a chance to explore the work of one of American poetry’s most revered figures. The museum, which also includes a series of public programs and special collections for researchers, has received a number of NEH grants over the years to support its work building a comprehensive archive of Dickinson’s work.

Poetry & Politics: Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich and the Women’s Liberation Movement
NEH awarded Megan Behrent a Research Fellowship in 2020 to complete her work on Poetry & Politics: Audre Lorde, Adrienne Rich and the Women’s Liberation Movement. The biography tells the story of Lorde and Rich’s lifelong friendship and the social and cultural currents that shaped their views as writers, contextualizing the poets within the broader women’s liberation movement.

The Korean War (1950–53) in Poetry by Korean Americans
In 2018, Stephen Hong Sohn was awarded an NEH Summer Stipend for his work on an article and book about the Korean War and its impact on prominent Korean American poets, including Myung Mi Kim, Don Mee Choi, and Sun Young Shin. Drawing connections between the writers, the text explores the relationship between Korean civilians and American servicemen in war-themed poetry and the role these works played in defining Korean American identity.

NEH’s educational website, EDSITEment, features a variety of poetry resources for K-12 educators, students, and parents, including writing exercises and suggested readings. The Preparing for Poetry guide introduces readers to poetic structure and figurative language. National Poetry Month: Celebrating World Poetry offers lessons and featured websites, while other EDSITEment resources focus on specific poetic forms such as the haiku, the ghazal, and the sonnet. The site also includes poems for AP Literature and AP English students and lesson plans centered on the work of well-known poets such as Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Charles Baudelaire, Joy Harjo, Langston Hughes, and Walt Whitman.

State Humanities Councils:
Situated across the county, NEH’s state and jurisdictional humanities councils host a selection of public programs to celebrate National Poetry Month. On April 2, Kristen Millares Young of Washington leads a virtual, personal essay writing workshop on the theme of community building. Missoula Public Library on April 4 features a presentation by the state’s poet laureate, Mark Gibbons, who will discuss how poetry can be used to foster empathy. Also on April 4, Humanities New York presents a series of monologues from military veterans alongside selections from Shakespeare in a virtual program. On April 8, Burrow Press in Orlando features Marisa Siegel, whose new poetry collection Fixed Stars examines themes of trauma and place. Through April 26, South Carolina Humanities presents Words Across the Water, a series of virtual programs on cultural diversity of Anglophone Caribbean and African-American language.


Humanities Magazine Articles:
What’s the Best Way to Read the Divine Comedy If You Don’t Know Italian?
Poetry Speaks
Black Poetry Anthologized
August Wilson's Blues Poetry
Independence Day Special: How I Learned to Love Patriotic Poetry
Verse and Adverse
Eclectic Verses
Thieves of Pleasure
Amy Lowell Anew
A Workingman's Poet
Moore or Less
Lorca, American Style
Over a Career Spanning Six Decades, American Poet W. S. Merwin Transformed Anger into Art
Louise Glück
Sister Poets
Why Maya Angelou Partnered with Hallmark
Imagine Nation: How Pocket Maps Helped Poets and Subjects Reenvision England
“Moving and Memorable”
The Messy Genius of W. H. Auden
Wendell E. Berry
Playing Against Type
John Ashbery
Kay Ryan