The Link: National Poetry Month

Since its introduction by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, literature lovers across the United States have celebrated National Poetry Month in April.  Join us as we explore the many facets of this form!

New resources that will be added to the ipl2 are noted NEW! All other resources can already be found in the ipl2 collection.

Teaching Poetry: Lesson Plans and More

Chalk poem detail, suburban Heathridge backyard, Western Australia. Photo by elliot k, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Chalk poem detail, suburban Heathridge backyard, Western Australia. Photo by elliot k, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Many people can be easily intimidated by poetry, but it can be a great learning activity. Learn more about this powerful art form by reading great works and finding your inner voice. Whether you are a teacher, instructor, parent, or student, here is a collection of creative ways to appreciate, internalize, replicate, and create poetry.

Poetry (Learn NC) (find it on the ipl2)

Learn NC is maintained by the UNC School of Education at the University of North Carolina, and it features a collection of lesson plans for grades K-12 that align with state and national teaching standards. The poetry lessons span all grades and levels and encourage students to define poetry, analyze works for poetic elements, and create their own portfolios. (find it on the ipl2)

The Academy of American Poets presents, an extensive collection of poems cataloged by poet and topic. There is also a For Educators tab which contains tips for teaching poetry, lesson plans, and other resources. Other great features include Poem-A-Day, a free daily e-newsletter that users can sign up for, and an events calendar that shows poetry events happening in your area.

NEW! ReadWriteThink is maintained by the International Reading Association and National Council of Teachers of English. There is an abundance of classroom resources for poetry found here including lesson plans, activities, projects, and bulletin board ideas. All lessons align with the Common Core of Learning standards. An additional benefit is that many of the lesson plans address students of varying abilities and needs and include links to audio recordings and videos.

Civil War Poetry

Thousands of poems were written about the Civil War by citizens and soldiers of both the Union and the Confederacy. “These poems enable us to better understand the role of poetry during the war years and how poetry helped unify citizens, inspire troops, memorialize the dead, and bind the nation’s wounds in the aftermath of the war.” The Library of Congress has some excellent resources and examples of the 7 “types” of Civil War poetry and can be accessed here:

Poetry and Music of the War Between the States (find it on the ipl2)

This is a collection of full-text Union and Confederate poetry and songs indexed by title, author, and first line. Information about some of the authors is available. Find lyrics, sound files, a history of Taps and Civil War Band Music, popular songs of the day, links to other sound files, and a discussion of “How Authentic Should Period Music Be?”

Henry Timrod: 1828–1867 (find it on the ipl2)

The Poetry Foundation website provides a lengthy biography of Timrod, as well as references, poems, and articles, including how Bob Dylan even weaved Henry Timrod’s phrases into songs on his “Modern Times” album in 1986. Henry Timrod (1828-1867), after limited success as a poet (publishing just one volume of works prior to the Civil War), became widely known as the “so-called poet laureate of the Confederacy,” after having his poetic imagination aroused by the possibility of the formation of a new nation, as well as the war’s impact.

Herman Melville (find it on the ipl2) provides several of Herman Melville’s poems, related prose and external links, as well a selected bibliography of his works. On the Union side, Herman Melville (1819-1891) was nearing the end of his novel-writing career due to poor reception by critics and had stopped writing fiction altogether. The Civil War had a profound impact on Melville, with many of his family members involved in some aspect of it, and the war not only revived his writing spirit, but it became the main subject of his poetry. He made trips to Washington D.C. and even to the front lines with his brother to gather the sounds and sights of conflict for his verse.

Nursery Rhymes

Illustrations are by William Wallace Denslow from the book, “Denslow’s Mother Goose” (1902). Illustrations are left to right: Hey Diddle Diddle, Hickety Dickety Dock, and Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater.

Illustrations are by William Wallace Denslow from the book, “Denslow’s Mother Goose” (1902). Illustrations are left to right: Hey! Diddle, Diddle, Hickety, Dickety, Dock, and Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater.

Nursery rhymes are short, rhyming stories often set to music for young children. Hallmarks include simple vocabulary and catchy rhymes; these make them good learning tools to help build children’s vocabularies. The majority of nursery rhymes date from the 16th – 18th centuries from Europe, especially Britain. They often serve as an oral record of important political and historical events. Check out these resources for more information on nursery rhymes.

Nursery Rhymes ipl2 Pathfinder (find it on the ipl2)

This ipl2 pathfinder covers one of England’s most enduring forms of oral culture: the nursery rhyme. Although we often take these funny little ditties for granted, some of them have been around since the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, and were originally composed for adult entertainment. Both print and Internet sources are provided in this resource.

NEW! The Mother Goose Club Rhymes

This site includes many nursery rhymes with illustrations set to music. The Parents’ Pages include historical background information about each rhyme and different known versions of the rhyme.

The Reason Behind the Rhyme from NPR’s All Things Considered (find it on the ipl2)

Radio clips of Chris Roberts, the author of “Heavy Words Lightly Thrown: The Reason Behind the Rhyme” and librarian of Lambeth College in South London, telling Debbie Elliott what lurks beneath the surface of several nursery rhymes we learned as children.

Poetry for Children

Abroad by Thomas Crane and Ellen Houghton. A children's book of poetry describing places, published in 1882.

Abroad by Thomas Crane and Ellen Houghton. A children’s book of poetry describing places, published in 1882.

Kids love poetry and National Poetry Month allows us time to celebrate those authors who keep our kids in stitches and tears through their work. The following websites honor poets Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky. In addition, you will find the incredible resource of the Children’s Poetry Archive where families can hear poems in the voices of their authors. Whether you want to spend some time with Runny Babbitt by Shel Silverstein or My Dog May Be A Genius by Jack Prelutsky, you will find them at the following sites. Or, hear the words of Allan Ahlberg, Roald Dahl, Langston Hughes and many more.

Shel Official Site for Kids (find it on the ipl2)

Features the poems of beloved children’s author, Shel Silverstein. This prolific writer of books such as Falling Up (1996), The Light in the Attic (1981), The Giving Tree (1964) and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1974) is still read and relevant today. This website, dedicated to all things Shel Silverstein for kids, has games and puzzles, news, Shel’s books and where to get them, a biography of Shel Silverstein, and ideas for teachers and parents. Interestingly, on the contacts page, it says “The Silverstein Family accepts all correspondence to Shel Silverstein and all letters are saved in the Shel Silverstein Archives for posterity.”*  With that kind of endorsement and the links to additional fun, kids can both learn and play on this site.
*Retrieved from:

NEW! Welcome to Jack Prelutsky

This fun and interactive website features the poems of Jack Prelutsky, author of A Pizza the Size of the Sun (1996) and Tyrannosaurus Was a Beast (1988). Once kids are on the site, they can read Jack’s poems, find letters written to him from children all over the world, and learn all about Jack. Parents and teachers have their own section where there are activities for the classroom and home, poems for parents/educators and a complete booklist. Kids and grownups alike will enjoy this website that celebrates the work and life of Jack Prelutsky!

Children’s Poetry Archive (find it on the ipl2)

This interactive site provides a different perspective on poetry, read aloud by the original authors, or in the case of classic poetry, read by people who love the work. The idea for this site came from Poet Laureate Andrew Motion and Recording Producer Richard Carrington. They understood that collecting these recordings and making them available to poetry lovers everywhere would make this art form that much more accessible to everyone.

Slam Poetry

Slam poet Tobias Kunze in action. Photo by Marvin Ruppert, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.Slam poet Tobias Kunze in action. Photo by Marvin Ruppert, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

Slam poet Tobias Kunze in action. Photo by Marvin Ruppert, used with permission under a Creative Commons license. describes slam poetry as “a poetry competition in which poets perform original work alone or in teams before an audience, which serves as judge.” The below resources illuminate the history of this lively and dynamic form as well as ways to experience it firsthand.

Poetry Slam, Inc. (find it on the ipl2)

This site features information, news, and links about poetry slams. It includes a FAQ with rules, definitions, and organizational tips, a directory of slam venues, a press section with a timeline and history of the slam movement, and links to other slam resources.

An Incomplete History of Slam (find it on the ipl2)

This site provides a discussion of the people, places, and events in the development and spread of slam poetry from its beginnings in 1970s Chicago. Slam poet Kurt Heintz authors this page on the history of slam poetry.

A Brief Guide to Slam Poetry (find it on the ipl2) provides this short overview of slam poetry. In addition to describing the form and its history, the site also features sources for further reading on the topic and a lesson plan for teaching slam and spoken word. The related prose section provides links to documentaries and other media relating to this art form.

Found Poetry

IMG_7192 (Aftermath).  Photo by Cat Sidh, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

IMG_7192 (Aftermath). Photo by Cat Sidh, used with permission under a Creative Commons license.

As explains, found poetry is “the literary equivalent of collage” (Academy of American Poets, 2007-2013).  Honoring the same “remix” aesthetic as song mash-ups and internet memes, found poetry recombines extant pieces of text, utilizing everything from political speeches to craigslist ads to fashion inventive works of art.  Here are a few resources where you can “find” more information:

Poetic Form: Found Poem (find it on the ipl2)

This page, sponsored by the Academy of American Poets, provides a definition of found poetry as well as examples of found poems and poets with a penchant for this medium.  It also points out well-known poets whose work tended to borrow from existing texts in the manner of found poetry, such as Ezra Pound.

NEW! Found & Headline Poems

The National Council of Teachers of English presents this down-to-earth how-to guide for aspiring found poets.  This PDF document provides step-by-step directions for writing a found poem, as well as a special section on headline poetry, a subcategory of the genre.  Also included are numerous examples of found poetry to instruct and inspire.  The guide is excerpted from the book:

Dunning, S., & Stafford, W. (1992). Getting the knack: 20 poetry writing exercises. Urbana, IL: National Council of Teachers of English.

NEW! Found Poetry Review

A literary magazine dedicated to found poetry, the Found Poetry Review celebrates “the poetry found in your newspaper articles, instruction booklets, dictionaries, product packaging, public speeches,” and so on.  While the most recent issue of this biannual publication is only available in physical form, the contents of previous issues are freely available in the site’s archives (“Past Issues”).  The Review accepts submissions for future issues, so if you’ve been bitten by the found poetry bug, send FBR a few stanzas!

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