National Poetry Month 2024

National Poetry Month was inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996. Over the years, it has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture.

2024 Poem of the Week

Each week, we’ll reveal our poet and poem of the week starting on April 1! National Poetry Month content will be available on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, so follow along on your favorite platform.

We kick off National Poetry Month with a 2024 individual artist fellow in the field of poetry. Joyce Enzor Maust reads her poem, ’Stitches of Silence and Strength,’ 2024.

The Twin Poets (Delaware’s Poets Laureate), with composer Mark Hagerty, conductor, and soloists, discuss the making of United Sounds of America, a collaboration that places urban poetry on the concert stage. Learn more about this project here: https://www.twinpoetsusa.com/

twin poets video

Daisy Wang

Scholastic Gold Key Winner

What does poetry mean to me?

I build my poems on the foundation of memories, which itself is inseparable from subjectivity. Nonetheless, for me, poetry is not only the expression of the self through creativity and imagination, but also another form of remembrance and reflection. “Ragged,” for instance, features my grandfather, whose presence appears in every corner of my childhood. Especially as I grew older, I began to understand the hardships he went through during the Cultural Revolution in the ‘60s and during his ongoing attempts to adjust to China’s rapidly progressing society. In my memories, there has always been the breakfast buns that my grandfather makes, the way he laughs, the stories he would tell with a teacup in hand. All in all, poetry is my way of meditation and reflection.

Ragged
I’d wake up to the smell of steamed pork buns.
Half sleepwalking I’d find the kitchen’s sliding door
Cracked open and see my grandfather’s hunched-over
Back as he hovers and busys himself over the kitchen
Counter. Under the warm orange kitchen light, steam
Takes shape and I’d distinguish his worn-out white vest,
Same old pair of navy blue knee-length shorts, heavily
Bruised calves and black socks stitched-up at the heels.
My grandfather has walked and starved on the
Ragged road of history, the bruises on his legs are
His marks of martyr. He used to show me how when
He presses down these greenish gray spots, they’d
Sink into his skin and, like a broken trampoline, the
Springs slowly but never fully recover its elasticity.

When he comes out with the buns, I’d be scrutinizing
The city map pressed under the plastic cover on the
Dining table. I’d then look up and see his smile. Deep
Lines of wrinkles layer around his gray eyes and his
Pale white hair seems soft and light. No one else in my
Family has his misty gray eyes. Sometimes I think they
Might have aged with him too, like his hair that did.
I feel like I have never seen my grandfather in rage.
Because whenever he is mad, he just seems sad. The
Corners of his mouth, without the strings of muscle that
Hold them up, drop. He would just seem disappointed
And exhausted and lonely, and I hate it to see him like that.
It always conjures up the same image in my head: a barely
Distinguishable tiny black dot slowly marching along

A curvy, ragged road.

Emma Coley, 12th grade, Newark Charter School

Scholastic Gold Key Winner

What does poetry mean to you?

Emotions are something that I often wish I could simply convey to other people, without all the superfluous words and descriptions attached. It would be so much simpler if I could just telepathically transfer whatever I was feeling instead of trying to label and categorize it with the limits of language. Poetry, for me, is what pushes that limit. It tests the boundary of language and emotion, of “making sense” and simply expressing, because expression and emotion don’t fit into the little categories we humans attempt to place the world around us into. That is why I appreciate poetry; it’s the same reason I appreciate music and the same reason I appreciate art. Poetry is a space unlimited by the conventional rules that we’ve imposed on our own communicative creativity, and this freedom in expression is invaluable as we face new levels of technical and emotional complexity throughout our lives.

Walk

As I walk quietly in between the whispering trees

I feel myself start to soften

My thoughts whisked away by a tranquil breeze

 

I feel the flaming panic gradually ease

Into a gentle river of thought, something I don’t feel often

As I walk quietly in between the whispering trees

 

Finally a rest from the frenzied sprees

From the tumultuous anger and and the irrational caution

My thoughts whisked away by a tranquil breeze

 

Finally the noisy thunder of my thoughts freeze

Now calmly drifting cloud-like from option to option

As I walk quietly in between the whispering trees

 

My mind is at peace and my body agrees

The twisting, bitter itch of anger now forgotten

My thoughts whisked away by a tranquil breeze

 

It sometimes feels scary to let go of the unease

But the cool dewy grass brushes away the precaution

My thoughts whisked away by a tranquil breeze

As I walk quietly in between the whispering trees.

To close out National Poetry Month we’ll hear directly from Delaware’s 2024 Poetry Out Loud state champion. Maiss Hussein is a senior at Paul M. Hodgson Vo-Tech. She is currently in the dental program and plans to attend Dental Hygiene school. Maiss loves poetry and has always had an interest in literature. Recently, she has started to write her own poetry. Maiss works with her school’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program which correlates with her interest in literature and culture. Maiss has a great pride in her Palestinian heritage and loves to find connections between her culture and poetry.

Below is an original poem by Maiss, submitted to the competition’s original poetry contest.  Good luck Maiss!

O Mother Land (2024)

O Mother Land,
How the trees blossom only on your soil-
The soil that preserves the footsteps of its ancestors with every stride-
Growing off its leaves are the olives that the children pluck
They come down falling into their wooden woven baskets
falling,
falling,

Falling into the hands of the oppressor who takes what is not theirs
Who rejoices at sweet motherland’s soil taken by bloodshed
Every stride taken by arrogance only to be overpowered by resistance
The children, yet clinging to heart & hope,
Remain to pluck the olives of their stolen trees

O Mother Land,
When all is upon its rubble & pieces, the army of resilience remains firm
Yet your sons remain planted on their feet, articulating your motherly tongue
To them O Mother Land, they say “You are the soul of my soul”

O Mother Land,
The bodies of your kin do not breathe,
Yet their hearts remain pumping, leaving them alive even in the grave
With the last look to be of the olives, the last words are only to utter
“O Mother Land”

We decided we couldn’t get enough of poetry month and have added one more bonus post. On May 9th, Maiss Hussein and Joelle Canternor joined the University of Delaware’s Poetry as Activism Festival. They each performed pieces from their Poetry Out Loud competition and learned from their peers statewide.

We decided we couldn’t get enough of poetry month and have added yet another bonus post. Today’s bonus is L.J. Sysko, an 2024 Established Fellow in Literature: Poetry. Sysko received her English degree from Lafayette College and an MFA in Creative Writing (Poetry) from New England College. In 2000, Sysko joined her native-Delawarean boyfriend (now husband) in Wilmington, where they have raised their children and where Sysko taught high school English for 14 years. Now, in addition to her poetic practice, she serves as Director of Executive Communications for the president of Delaware State University, Dr. Tony Allen.

Sysko’s poems have been published widely in over 30 publications, including PloughsharesThe Georgia Review, and Best New Poets, among others, and she has published two books of poetry. Her latest, The Daughter of Man, praised by Publisher’s Weekly as “a whip smart … playful celebration of feminine power,” “traces the Heroine Archetype through the American suburban battleground from the 1980s to today.”

During the pandemic, Sysko found that her artistic practice “accelerated, deepened, and became more committed,” and she has begun to work “more concertedly with ‘music’ and sonic effects . . . deploying rhyme, syntax, and alliteration, especially.” She plans to use her Division award to continue on a new work-in-progress.

National Poetry Month Archive

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Poetry Out Loud Recitation Contest

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