Poetry for All: Happy National Poetry Month!

April is National Poetry Month. In celebration of the importance of poetry, here are three ways scholars, students, and community members are working together to engage diverse audiences in poetry.

Across the country, veterans are gathering to read and discuss poetry in the context of NEH-funded Dialogues on the Experience of War programs. Reading poetry about war helps participants process their and others’ experiences of war, as they build relationships with other veterans and reintegrate into their communities. Meeting over poetry, many veterans find their voices. Commenting on their experience reading the ancient Greek poem the Odyssey, one participant reflected: “For forty years I have been looking for words to describe my experience and I finally found them right here in this ancient book.”

In Riverside, California, the Relevancy & History Project is using poetry to help California State Parks tell a more inclusive history of the state’s most beloved crop: citrus. Though migrants and immigrants built and sustain California’s citrus industry, they are not well represented at the California Citrus State Historic Park in Riverside. The project has created and installed new interpretive signage throughout the park, pairing poetry by Juan Delgado with photographs of laborers by Thomas McGovern to tell a broader story of citrus in Inland Southern California. The poetry and images on these interpretive signs contextualize the park and citrus more broadly, highlighting the people that made the industry possible.

In South Bend, Indiana, University of Notre Dame faculty teach poetry, including the work of William Shakespeare, at the South Bend Center for the Homeless. These classes focus on the reading and discussion of great works of poetry and prose, creating learning opportunities for residents to earn Notre Dame credit and to build community, self-confidence, and all the critical life skills that learning in the humanities endows.

This month and every month, these projects are sharing poetry with the world. To learn more about these and other publicly engaged humanities initiatives, visit Humanities for All and NEH for All.


Photo Credit:

Thumbnail image: Residents of the South Bend Center for the Homeless read and discuss great works of poetry and prose. Image courtesy of the World Masterpieces Seminar.

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