April is National Poetry Month, despite its reputation–in some poesy circles–for cruelty. So to celebrate verse and its practitioners, the Academy of American Poets throws a big party every year in New York. This year Calvin Trillin will be the master of ceremonies (April 17, Lincoln Center). Besides good food, Trillin’s presence guarantees a measure of levity and laughter–not the first thing people associate with American poets. (Lowell? Crane? Plath? Sure but Billy Collins is funny! John Ashberry is a riot!) Guest speakers include actresses Amber Tamblyn, Patricia Clarkson, Tyne Daly, and Kathleen Turner–some of whom are practically poetry themselves.
And lest this all be perceived as too highbrow and insular (contemporary poetry has faced such slurs before!), the Academy is opening its mahogany doors by encouraging students to read the work of the poets who serve on its Board of Chancellors (Mark Doty, Toi Derricotte, Edward Hirsch, Arthus Sze, Anne Waldman) and to handwrite a letter to one of them. Lucky and thoughtful correspondents will get a instructive, lyrical, meditative response, a la Rilke’s famous Letters to a Young Poet. The replies will be featured on the Academy website, where the wisdom–just like Rilke’s–will be available to everyone.