In the US, the month of April each year is set aside as National Poetry Month.
Initiated in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets, publishers, literary organizations, educational organizations, magazines, libraries, publishing associations and book agencies, the world’s largest promotion of poetry celebrates its 25 anniversary this year.
Throughout the month, the academy and its sponsors work with libraries, schools and bookshops across the US to organize poetry recitals and poetry composition contests, with celebrities or celebrated poets in attendance, in addition to giving out poetry books.
The academy also prints 100,000 copies of annual National Poetry Month posters and sends them to libraries and schools.
In the past few years, the designs of the posters — which usually feature poetry or poets — have been selected through high-school design competitions.
For example, this year’s poster was designed by a 12th-grader from a high school in Brooklyn, New York, who also won a US$1,000 prize.
Furthermore, the design competition is a chance to promote an interest in poetry among students at high schools across the US.
The organization and publicity of National Poetry Month promotes poetry reading, recitals and writing in the institutions, schools and libraries across the US.
Not only that, according to statistics, the sales of poetry collections and other poetry works in the country increase by 25 to 35 percent during National Poetry Month, which is a bonus for poets and publishers alike.
In the past few years, in addition to inviting celebrities or famous poets to recite poems, National Poetry Month has also become a time for people to show their goodwill and do charitable deeds.
For example, during National Poetry Month in 1998, a young man raised money to purchase 12,000 editions of a poetry collection by Nobel Prize laureate Joseph Brodsky, and drove across the country to distribute them to hotels for free, so that in addition to the Bible, there were also poems for travelers to read.
Events such as these beget good deeds, and these increase the popularity and sales of poetry.
It is no exaggeration to say that the US every year in April becomes something of a poetry paradise.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many National Poetry Month activities were this year and last year moved online, but the show has gone on.
In Taiwan, poetry books hardly fly off the shelves: Selling 500 or 600 copies of a volume is considered a success.
Although the Ministry of Culture organizes the Taipei Literature Festival, similar events have had limited impact, perhaps because they have tended to be modest-sized book fairs organized by literary groups, rather than collaborations with local libraries or schools.
Therefore, the efforts the Academy of American Poets makes to promote poetry reading and to organize other poetry-related activities are inspiring and worthy of people’s admiration, and something that Taiwanese can learn from.
Poetry, in this information age, might not receive lots of attention, but people can often see its power from the comfort it provides.
It would be wonderful if there were events like National Poetry Month in Taiwan, to bring the nation closer to a poetry paradise.
Wang Hsi-chang is a former reviewer at the National Central Library.
Translated by Lin Lee-kai
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