Cheryl A. Rice at the 2019 Word Fest Readings Against the End of the World, April 13, at UAlbany, Albany, NY

The Flying Monkey: National WHAT Month?

A quick internet search reveals that not only is April National Poetry Month, but also: African American Women’s Fitness Month, Alcohol Awareness Month, Black Women’s History Month, Celebrate Diversity Month, Confederate History Month, Distracted Driving Awareness Month, Financial Literacy Month, Foot Health Awareness Month, and Fresh Florida Tomato Month, among many, many others. All important and notable causes in their own right, and as we know there are only twelve months each year to spread all these national and international recognition campaigns among.

I used to feel like April was special for poets. It is the likely birth month of that Poet’s Poet, “Bill” Shakespeare. T.S. Eliot called April, “… the cruelest month,” and most versifiers, ready to pen an ode or memorial at a moment’s notice, heartily agree with that glowing review. But now, everybody’s got their month. As arts funds are once again trimmed, due to inflation, pandemic, right wing paranoia, so too has the attention waned for what used to be something of a happening, at least among my chosen tribe. I have a collection of National Poetry Month posters, acquired under the dubious auspices of my fly-by-night publishing endeavor, Flying Monkey Press. I don’t recall seeing the opportunity to order one this year, but I could easily have missed it. I miss so much these days, both cognitively and sentimentally.

A week in Florida with my parents brought the present into clear focus, and the past back to the forefront of memory. In visiting bookshops, souvenir stands, restaurants, and beaches, it was easy to ignore Florida’s deep divide, and present destructive regime. It is easy too to forget what really matters, how parents age, despite always being the youngest parents around. How nephews, great-nephews grow and glide. How even putting the parts together of a trip might have been in my grasp after all, but letting my Beloved do the research saved me from a sort of breakdown at the time.

It’s partly our slow reawakening from the COVID nightmare that makes this April feel different. A few events in celebration of poetry have reemerged, albeit mostly still in virtual form. I find Zoom readings sometimes a good thing, allowing me to hear voices I would never get to in person, but overall, I too must say I miss in-person events. I’m reading on the last possible day of the month as part of a marathon that’s suddenly been organized in Woodstock. Perhaps this will become an annual celebration, better advertised, expanded. Maybe even with a snazzy poster. In particular, I miss Albany Poets Word Fest, and look hopeful towards its return. As an honorary Albanian, I was usually able to attend one event during the week.

April’s also the month in which I extend my generous offer to non-poets who wish to support our cause. I’m still available for a Take A Poet To Dinner evening. I can read my work or not, as you wish. I go both ways, vegan and carnivore, so the where of it isn’t an issue. But time is running out, at least for this year. Unless you’re Dan Wilcox, who insists that, “everyday is Poetry Month.” In that case, call me and we’ll work something out.