April may be the cruelest four weeks of the year, according to some, but it’s also a time to celebrate National Poetry Month. Check out the venues and organizations below for all your versifying needs. By Jessica Allen.
This airy library overlooking the Hudson River has more than 50,000 volumes of verse, one of the largest such collections in the United States. It’s free, and anyone and everyone can come in, borrow a book, and get lost in the pages. In addition to regular readings and workshops, Poets House puts on noteworthy exhibits, including one a few years ago that featured Emily Dickinson’s recipe for coconut cake. And the annual Showcase displays each and every book of poetry published that year in the US.
Since 1973, Nuyorican Poets Cafe has hosted slams, held readings, presented performances, sponsored open mics, and generally just promoted the power of the spoken word on the Lower East Side. It’s a diverse place that supports first-time authors as intently and as meaningfully as it does established ones. Indeed, if Nuyorican Poets Cafe had a motto, it might be something along the lines of “everyone has something to say that’s worth listening to.”
Reading your work on stage at the Unterberg Poetry Center is like making it to the majors or performing on Broadway—in other words, it’s a big deal. Ongoing since 1939, this series at the 92nd Street Y has hosted some of the biggest lights in the literary world (in all genres), from W. H. Auden and T. S. Eliot to Susan Sontag and Margaret Atwood to Jonathan Franzen and Dave Eggers. Ian McEwan calls the venue “probably the best place to give a reading on the planet.”
According to its website, the Poetry Society of New York has a three-part mission: (1) to unite New York poetry communities, (2) to bring the works of New York poets to the world, and (3) to never bore you. We’ll leave the determination about the success of #3 to you, but this organization accomplishes the first two goals via events and projects like The Poetry Brothel (“part saloon and part salon,” a performance art piece in which the poets play the part of courtesans, offering poetry in place of sexual favors) and the yearly New York Poetry Festival.
Each week The Poetry Project gives folks the chance to hear poetry from both new and established writers at one of three different readings or performances. Each quarter it publishes a newsletter (and each spring a literary magazine called The Recluse). And each year it gains in prestige, from its beginnings in 1966 as a place for writers like Allen Ginsberg and Amiri Baraka to share their work to its position today as one of the most storied reading series—and homes—for poetry in town.
Eleven years ago, New York City hosted the first “Poem in Your Pocket Day.” In the years since, the event has gone national, and annually on April 18 people around the country carry a poem in their pocket to share with friends, family, colleagues, and strangers. You can write your own poem, or you can carry one written by someone else. The poem can be previously published or not, rhyming or not, long or not, famous or not. The goal, of course, is to simply revel in its words.