Point: National Poetry Month is Great
How can there possibly be anything wrong with National Poetry Month? It exists to highlight the importance of poetry and that’s a laudable goal. It stakes poetry’s claim on the calendar and provides a framework for events and education. It’s not news that poetry isn’t the highest-selling type of literature out there, and it’s good for those who care about poetry to work to make it visible, and to say that poetry isn’t just some boring thing that gets forced on students in school, but that it is important and vital and interesting. Having a designated month for poetry is a good idea because it’s a way to keep it in the public eye on a continual basis. Barring the apocalypse, April is going to keep happening, and since it is, we might as well say “Stop! Poetry Time!” Let’s have readings and discussions. Let’s hand out chapbooks and encourage people to create. Poetry isn’t some dry, dusty thing best left to academics and library shelves. It’s not some dainty thing meant only for little old ladies to talk about at tea. It’s an amazingly powerful art form and it deserves its time in the limelight.
Counterpoint: National Poetry Month is Not Great
Hey, I like poetry. I read it frequently and I think about it just as much. Good poetry is one of my very favorite things. But I don’t need a designated month to think about it. Because you know what? Poetry Month isn’t just Poetry Month. No, it has to share its awareness spreading with other things like Irritable Bowel Syndrome Awareness Month and Rabies Awareness Month (like Michael Scott, I support the rabid) and Yukon Biodiversity Awareness Month. (Interestingly enough, National Poetry Month isn’t even listed on the site I linked. Take that, poetry. You lose to IBS.) Awareness months are weird things anyway. Yes, I understand the argument that they in some way bring attention to things that might otherwise get no attention at all, but when each month is a veritable buffet of things to be aware of, then it waters down the impact of any of them. What does it take to designate something an awareness month? Declaring it? Oooh, that’s meaningful. (I can’t wait for June, because that’s Goat Trauma Awareness Month. I’m telling you now: I don’t want to be a victim of goat trauma. Because, and I am not making this up, “Goats are deceitful and can hide just about anywhere.” Sneaky trauma-causing buggers.) The other problem with National Poetry Month is that it pigeonholes poetry. Shouldn’t teachers and students and other consumers of literature be aware of poetry all the time? By making one month the special designated poetry time, it means that the other 11 months of the year aren’t poetry time. That’s not such a great ratio. Why can’t there be posters and readings and events and awareness of living poets and the legacy of poetry in August or November or February? If poetry is so far removed from popular consciousness that there has to be a special month for poets to say “No really, you guys, poetry is neat too!” then I think that’s a bigger problem than April can fix. What I mean is that having a designated month for poetry seems almost like an admission that it’s generally irrelevant, but we can humor it a little for 30 short days. That doesn’t really help.