A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Constance Alexander: Calloway Co. Public Library to honor Kentucky writers during National Poetry Month

Ask any Kentuckian about misconceptions associated with the Bluegrass State and responses range from horrendous to hilarious: “Yes, we wear shoes,” or “No, we are not inbred,” or “Sorry, but everyone in Kentucky doesn’t get tickets to the Derby.”

Most of us are content to break out the mint juleps at home and watch the race on TV.

One area in which Kentucky claims an impressive and undisputed high standing is in its rich and diverse literary heritage. The week of April 23, in fact, is devoted to celebrating Kentucky writers and honoring the first U.S. Poet Laureate, Kentucky’s own Robert Penn Warren.

April also happens to be National Poetry Month, and therein is another cause célèbre. Special literary events are scheduled in Frankfort, Lexington, Guthrie and Murray, with support from the Kentucky Arts Council and the Kentucky Humanities Council.

Thanks to an Arts Council grant, the Calloway County Public Library is setting the stage for a special community gathering on April 23 from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. in the library’s meeting room. Volunteers have signed up to read works by a range of Kentucky poets. Ranging from an elected public official, to a university professor, readers also include a realtor, a fast food worker, and a coffin maker, among others.

Besides individuals, family groups are being encouraged to present a group reading of a favorite poem, and there is still time for anyone who is interested to pick a poem and sign up to read.

“We are so pleased to host a special event in honor of National Poetry Month and Kentucky writers,” said Sandy Linn, the library’s community relations coordinator. “The grant from the Kentucky Arts Council will help us with future celebrations because the funds will be used expand our collection of books by Kentucky writers and poets.”

Since April 23 also marks Shakespeare’s 402nd birthday, at least one of the Bard’s sonnets will be featured in the reading, along with works by Kentucky’s pantheon of poets. Contemporary and historic poems will be part of the mix, and the audience will be invited to contribute favorite lines and titles to create “pocket poems” of their own.

The Academy of American Poets launched National Poetry Month in 1996 to acknowledge poetry’s vital place in our culture. Poem in Your Pocket Day is April 26, and the idea is to select a poem to carry that day, sharing it with others at schools, libraries, bookstores, parks, workplaces, street corners, and on social media using the hashtag #pocketpoem.

“As children, we all were lovers of poetry, and the readings and the reception that follows on April 23 are designed to remind us of the pleasure and wonder associated with poetry,” Linn explained.

The community gathering is made possible, in part, by a grant from the Kentucky Arts Council, the state arts agency, which is supported by state tax dollars and federal funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

Founded in 1996, National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world, with tens of millions of people of every age, and every walk of life, making poetry’s important place in our lives. For more information, log on to https://www.poets.org/national-poetry-month/about-celebration.

For more information about the reading at Calloway County Public Library, contact Linn at sandy.linn@callowaycountylibrary.org or 270-753-2288. Calloway County Public Library is located at 710 Main Street, Murray.

Constance Alexander is a columnist, award-winning poet and playwright, and President of INTEXCommunications in Murray. She can be reached at calexander9@murraystate.edu. Or visit www.constancealexander.com.

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