April Is the Poetry Month

Four Questions and a Poem a Day Online

By Jake Marmer

Published March 30, 2011, issue of April 08, 2011.
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Happy April, the Poetry Month!

To the list of festive occasions, picked up in this American goles, or exile — Thanksgiving, Mardi Gras, the Hotdog Eating Contest day at Nathan’s in Coney Island — a new one can now be added: April, the Poetry Month. Now in its 15th year, the newly minted holiday was originally instituted by the Academy of American Poets and is an occasion for a wave of readings, publications and all things poetry. We at the Forward are happily joining the festivities.

The talmudically minded will likely ask: Is this new holiday like a yontef, khol hamoyed or Shabbos? Yes Kiddush, or no Kiddush? Suit and tie? Business casual? Pajamas? The answer, as always with such matters, is a makhlokes: The opinions are divided.

Picking up on the great irony of the Passover Seder — which in Hebrew means “order,” but usually turns into the exact opposite, a disorderly shouting forum of full-mouthed opinion making — we will be hosting a poetic forum, featuring interviews with a number of poets who will all be asked the same set of four questions. Their answers will collate into a cacophonous Seder-like chorus.

As with khol hamoyed — the intermediate semi-holy days of Passover and Sukkot — which mix small bits of festivity into the everyday experience, the Forward’s Arty Semite blog will be hosting a “Poem-a-Day Marathon,” bringing you some of the most exquisite works from the contemporary scene.

In all, so much good stuff will be coming your way that it will be hard, if not impossible, to get any work done. To keep up with everything, you may just need a single, month-long sabbatical.

Charles Bernstein, avant-garde poet of stature, warns that the Poetry Month in the past years has often turned to establishment-approved, formally boring poets that promote what Bernstein disdainfully calls the “safe-reading experience,” which ultimately results in something between a pareve anti-climax “Poetry’s not so bad, really” and a Marianne Moore style critique, “Poetry / I, too, dislike it.” Instead, Bernstein proposes a counter-holiday, the “International Anti-Poetry Month.” We will attempt to commingle both notions, bringing you a crowd widely diverse in terms of exposure, approach, style, background and geographical location. Stay tuned, and Happy April!


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