Wednesday, April 3, 2024

Celebrating Poetry Month ... and Civic Engagement ~by Christy Mihaly

2024 Poetry Month poster:
Art by Jack Wong, words from Lucille Clifton poem

Happy National Poetry Month! It's time to celebrate poetry again!

Many poetry-loving writers, educators, and organizations post suggestions for elevating poetry this month. Reading Rockets has a great collection of resources here. Of course, we can celebrate poems all year long -- but it's nice to have a whole month to focus on bringing more poetry into our lives. 
Music-themed poetry in music store window

One of my favorite celebrations is "Poem City," a month-long event in Vermont's capital, Montpelier, during which the shop windows are filled with poems and libraries, coffee shops, and general stores resound with poetry readings. I'm so pleased to have one of my poems included in the collection, along with many others by poets from near and far. More about Poem City here.

Poetry can engage learners, not only in learning reading and writing, but in lessons about history, science, math, and my personal passion: civics. In Free for You and Me: What Our First Amendment Means, I turned to writing poems as a way to simplify constitutional concepts and make reading about them fun. 

It has turned out to be an effective way to communicate the concepts. Recently, on one hand, an editorial in a local paper reiterated the importance of teaching civics in our schools, and cited my books; and I did a read-aloud of this book with an engaged 5th-grade class as part of a workshop on civics and poetry -- more on that below. 

Spread from FREE FOR YOU AND ME on Freedom of Assembly

Of course you can find and write poems for all kinds of kids and all kinds of interests. 

In their anthology Hop to It: Poems to Get You Moving, poets Sylvia Vardell and Janet Wong collected 100 poems by 90 poets (including me!) that incorporate movement. Many of the poems relate to STEM themes. But this book, published in 2020, also includes several poems about civic engagement. Here's mine: 


by Christy Mihaly

Be a friend when someone's hurting
Give a smile or helping hand
Don't be shy about asserting
what is right: just take a stand.
Stand up!

If you want to make things better,
think of things that you can do.
Make a call or send a letter.
Illustrate your point of view.
        Stand up!

In a tizzy, feeling nervous?
Know your rights and learn your laws.
Join a march or day of service.
Find some friends to join your cause.
                STAND UP!

Don't just sit there on the sidelines 
when you know there's work to do.
If you think we need new guidelines,
write them up--it's up to you!

                                    STAND UP!

Lisa Powell created a fun video to go with this poem, posted here.

And yes, this month I've been working with an amazing fifth grade class to explore poetic forms and write poems in a series of workshops exploring freedom of expression and engagement in our democracy. Big concepts -- but we make it concrete through writing haiku, Fibonacci poems, and other poems about topics of concern to the students. 

Poetry can be magic! 

For more ideas and resources, check out GROG's Poetry Month posts from years past: here, or here, or here. (You can search for past poetry posts for lots more good stuff from 10 years of GROG archives!)

And happy month to all!