This blog post was updated on May 15, 2020.
Each year on August 21st, literary aficionados across the country celebrate National Poet’s Day. The U.S. boasts a rich and diverse poetic tradition, which means there are plenty of ways to celebrate this unofficial national holiday and learn about American poets. Here are three great places to start.
American Poetry Museum
Located in Washington, D.C., the American Poetry Museum is dedicated to preserving, encouraging, and teaching about American poets and poetry movements. Since opening in 2004, the museum has curated cutting-edge, socially- engaged collections and exhibitions focusing on American poetic expression. Current exhibitions include Girl for Sale (a collaborative virtual outreach exhibition about girl trafficking that interrogates and responds to the issues through poetry, art and education), DC Writer’s Houses Project (which documents the homes of literary authors who once lived in the greater Washington, DC region), and Beats to the Rhyme Exhibition (which explores the shared influences of hip hop music and culture and spoken word poetry).
Visit “Papa” Hemmingway’s Floridian home and lush grounds to learn more about this titan of American poetry and literature. Highlights include Hemingway’s 17th and 18th century Spanish furniture collection, stunning deco architectural accents throughout the home, the large in-ground pool (one of the first in Florida at that time), and Papa’s famous gardens that brim with an impressive array of regional flora. I recommend taking the ½-hour guided tour to learn more about Hemingway’s literary oeuvre and personal life, including his four wives and children.
Learn about one of America’s most famous poet’s, Emily Dickinson, by visiting two historic homes in Amherst, Massachusetts. The Homestead was where Emily Dickinson was born, and the adjacent Evergreens was home to her brother Austin, his wife Susan, and their three children. The museum is owned and operated by Amherst College, and has been carefully restored to its authentic Dickenson-era color scheme. Highlights include four different types of tours that present the story of Emily Dickinson’s life from a variety of perspectives, as well as an interpretive exhibit called “my Verse is alive” that teaches visitors about the early publication of Dickinson’s poetry. The museum also hosts a variety of programs, including poetry marathons, a 19th-century style children’s circus, rock concerts, lectures and writing workshops.