Celebrating National Poetry Month with the Library

Written by Clarity Amrein, Senior Library Services Assistant, Downtown Main Library 

How are you celebrating National Poetry Month this April? Are you sending sonnets to your love all month long? Or curling up on the couch with a new collection? Or watching local poets do virtual readings? With tons of free online poetry materials for children, teens, and adults, spend National Poetry Month with the Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County using our eBranch, opens a new window!   

Read or Listen to Classics through the eBranch 

Head to Library’s website and click on the eBranch, opens a new window. Then, log in into your preferred eBook , opens a new windowplatform: Overdrive, Hoopla, or Freading. Here you can revisit favorite classic poetry books such as Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, opens a new window, T.S. Eliot’s Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, opens a new window, and The Complete Poems of Emily Dickinson, opens a new window

On these platforms, you’ll also find eBooks and eAudiobooks from famous African American poets like Maya Angelou, Paul Laurence Dunbar, and Langston Hughes, to popular contemporary works like Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, opens a new window, and Tyler Knott Gregson’s Chasers of Light, opens a new window, all free with your Library card.  

If you’re studying for a high school or college course, you can check out poetry anthologies and literary criticism using these websites, too. On Hoopla, opens a new window, you can view CliffNotes study guides on Shakespeare and other classic poets, or the Gale Virtual Reference Library’s poetry study guide series. You can also take a look at Freading, opens a new window’s SparkNotes study guides on works from John Donne to Margaret Atwood. 

Self-Publishing and Local Poetry Submissions 

With all that inspiration, it’s a great time to start crafting your own poetry! See Freading’s guides on writing poetry and Overdrive, opens a new window’s multitude of eBooks on self-publishing. Under the eBranch dropdown menu on our website’s homepage, click the “Magazines” link and choose the RbDigital, opens a new window platform to read complete current and past issues of The American Poetry Review, opens a new window for up-to-date advice on poetry submissions.  

Speaking of submissions, you might consider submitting your work to local poetry zines and literary magazines. Submit flash fiction or short poetry to nationally recognized publication’s The Cincinnati Review’s miCRo contest, opens a new window, which accepts submissions year-round. University of Cincinnati students can submit poetry or fiction to the student-run publication Short Vine Literary Journal, opens a new window

Poetry Opportunities for Kids & Teens 

The eBranch has plenty of materials to offer young writers and poetry fans, too! Listen to childhood favorites as audiobooks on Overdrive such as the poems of Shel Silverstein, opens a new window, or more modern works like Walter Dean Myers’ Jazz, opens a new window, which includes poetry readings and accompanying jazz performances.  

If your child or teen is a budding poet, check out local nonprofit organization WordPlay Cincinnati’s website, opens a new window or Facebook page, opens a new window for youth-oriented writing prompts and educational videos. WordPlay also is hosting its annual Cincinnati Youth Poet Laureate contest for teens ages 14-17 and has extended the deadline for submission to April 15, 2020. The Youth Poet Laureate winner will receive a $500 scholarship, speaking opportunities, and poems published in a national publication.   

You also can watch teen spoken word performances and contests on the YouTube account Youth Speaks, opens a new window.  

Virtual Poetry Readings & Events from Local Organizations 

The Library offers many digital materials to read and listen to, and local poets and organizations are creating great online content as well. Nonprofit organization Women Writing for (a) Change is offering virtual samplers of their writing classes and groups, opens a new window. Register on its website or find the group on Instagram at @womenwritingcincy to see virtual writing prompts and “Poem of the Day” videos. 

Be sure to also check out current Cincinnati Poet Laureate Manuel Iris and past laureate Pauletta Hansel’s Cincinnati Poetry Month project “Postcards from the Pandemic.” Each day a poem is being shared on Hansel’s blog and the Poet Laureate of Cincinnati Facebook Group , opens a new windowto capture Cincinnatians’ personal experiences of life in quarantine. 

LGBTQ+ Poetry Materials 

For those in the LGBTQIA+ community and allies, eBooks and eAudiobooks of classic queer poetry works such as The Collected Poems of Audre Lorde, opens a new window, Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons, opens a new window, and various collections from poets and authors like Adrienne Rich, James Baldwin, and Frank O’Hara are available on Overdrive and Hoopla, along with modern works like Andrea Gibson’s How Poetry Can Change Your Heart, opens a new window or Tommy Pico’s Nature Poem, opens a new window

Watch poetry readings, TED talks, and interviews; and listen to podcasts from queer poets using the links below:  

Jericho Brown’s TED Talk “The Art of Words”  , opens a new window
(His work New Testament , opens a new windowavailable on Overdrive and Hoopla) 

Chen Chen reading and interview  , opens a new window
(His work When I Grow Up I Want to be a List of Further Possibilities, opens a new window available on Overdrive and Hoopla) 

Danez Smith’s Don’t Call Us Dead reading and interview  , opens a new window
(Don’t Call Us Dead, opens a new window available on Overdrive) 

Queer Words Podcast  , opens a new window

This April, connect with local writing organizations from the comfort of your own desk, and use this month-long celebration as an excuse to check out all the digital poetry resources the Library has to offer children and adults. And in the words of E.E. Cummings, “well, write poetry, for God’s sake, it’s the only thing that matters.”