PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The Academy of American Poets established April as National Poetry Month in 1996 to broaden attention to poetry — living poets and our poetic heritage — and to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture.

When Robert Pinsky was selected as Poet Laureate in 1997, he initiated the Favorite Poem Project with a one year call for submissions. Americans, ages 5-97, from all states and diverse occupations shared 18,000 of their favorites.

Billy Collins, Poet Laureate in 2001-2003 established Poetry 180 for High Schools, with selections to be read with classes each school day. That program is still popular. W.S. Merwin, 82-years-old, is this year’s choice and although he is reclusive, living with his wife in Maui, Hawaii, his work speaks to all of us.

Living on a barren plantation, he has cultivated 700 endangered plant species — connecting nature and words. He also sees the oral tradition of poetry akin to music. Teachers might use rap as a beginning to interest teens in poetry.

Read some of Merwin’s thought-provoking poetry and find your own connection.

Reported By Dr. Marciene Mattleman, KYW Newsradio

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