For Poetry, The Meter Is Running

April 28, 1997|By Richard O'Mara | Richard O'Mara,SUN STAFF

Everybody wants a piece of the calendar.

For the second year in a row, the poets of America have spent April staking a claim to the month as their own. In fact, long before March limped out, lamb-like, a press kit from the Academy of American Poets flew into this office. It was a pert and brassy thing, multicolored and covered with drawings of furry little humanoids.

The material inside -- designed to enlist love and support for poets -- reported a media blitz, including, among other things, an article on poetry in a Chinese newspaper, and "events," such as a reading of "cowboy poetry" somewhere in Texas.

Cowboy poetry?

But April, which at just 30 days is fast waning even as you read this, already has many claimants. "Holidays and Anniversaries of the World," published by Gale Research Inc., lists some of them: Boost Your Home Town Month, Red Cross Month, even Philatelic Societies' Month, for shy stamp collectors.

National Poetry Month? Not a mention.

But the poets have pressed on, with all the determination of Hitler closing in on Czechoslovakia. They even deployed one of their famous dead members, and his pedestrian line about April being the "cruelest month," (February, richer by far in inclemency, objects) in a blatant attempt to ally themselves with tax collectors, who, it is well known, get even less respect than poets, and who have been looking for a month to call their own for donkeys' years. No such luck.

Experienced observers of calendar politics suspect the poets would like to oust the American Chiropractic Association, which comfortably sponsors April's Correct Posture Month.

These erudite poets should know that despite the suggestive meaning of its name (from the Latin aperire, "to open"), April remains a hard nut to crack. The Roman Emperor Nero once tried to rename it Neronius. Did he succeed? Hah! Nero got not even an eponymous day!

But even as the sun began its long decline over April 1997, word was out that the poets might be contemplating a sneak attack on May. It's a very merry month, as everybody knows, full of associations with "dancing, singing, love" and all that stuff poets are supposed to know about.

But there, too, the company is entrenched. May is Arthritis Month, which couldn't move if it wanted to. National Barbecue Month won't be budged. How about Bike Safety Month? That'd be like taking on Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

So maybe April is the better bet. In fact, it turns out, they have already gained a modicum of recognition here, or at least a rather fat paragraph of fulsome self-congratulation in something called Chase's Calendar of Events for 1997. (Their entry is to be found immediately above the listing for National Sexually Transmitted Diseases Education and Awareness Month.)

Having won a place in the dubious Chase calendar for April, it would seem untoward for the poets to compete for a slot in another month, even in another journal. Otherwise, chaos impends. There must be rules.

With that in mind, perhaps poetry would settle for something a little less ambitious for next year. How about National Poets Day?

April 1.

Pub Date: 4/28/97

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