April marks National Poetry Month and JazzApril — two celebrations that lend themselves to bookstore events and sales. Free resources to promote each are available from the Academy of American Poets (AAP) and the Jazz Journalists Association, respectively.
This year’s National Poetry Month theme — letter writing — celebrates the role that correspondence has played in poets’ development and writing lives. To that end, the “Dear Poet Project” was launched to encourage young people to become engaged by handwriting letters to some of the poets who serve on the Academy’s Board of Chancellors.
Ideas for booksellers who would like to get involved in the project include hosting events for children and young adults to familiarize them with some of the chancellors’ work and then asking them to compose a one- to two-page handwritten letter sharing questions and thoughts about a poem with its author. Select letters may receive a reply from the poet and be featured on the Academy’s website. More details can be found on Poets.org.
“A significant percentage of the more than 2,000 books of poetry published each year in the U.S. are released by small, independent presses that may only be found at independent bookstores,” said Jennifer Benka, executive director of the Academy of American Poets. “In short, independent booksellers help poets find their audience, which helps sustain poets’ work and this important art form.”
A copy of the official National Poetry Month poster, designed by graphic artist Jessica Helfand, was sent to ABA member stores in the March Red Box mailing. The Academy’s website also features the poster and an array of resources to help stores create events, including 30 ways to celebrate; a full poster gallery; a database of poems that is searchable for text within a poem, and browsable by title, author, or first line; details about April 18’s Poem in Your Pocket Day; a subscription form for Poem-A-Day; and more.
This April also marks the inaugural annual celebration of JazzApril, organized by the Jazz Journalists Association. The celebration incorporates Jazz Appreciation Month (JAM), initiated by Smithsonian Jazz, and International Jazz Day (April 30, sponsored by UNESCO.
“Everyone I know who loves jazz is also an avid reader and book buyer,” said Howard Mandel, president of the Jazz Journalists Association and a jazz author himself. “Jazz fans buy jazz books — which are typically stocked best in independent bookstores. Jazz fans are independent thinkers with adventurous tastes, and to them an independent bookstore with carefully curated inventory is like a small jazz club that features only the best music, drawn from a world-wide talent pool.
“I’m sure if you ask you’ll find many jazz fans among current customers. Celebrating JazzApril with a special jazz book display, promotion, book signings, or words-and-music events is a good way to bring them into your store and to attract many more.”
Booksellers are encouraged to visit the bookstore resource page on the JazzApril website. The many ways bookstores can participate in the month’s festivities include:
- Displaying a banner or sign promoting “JazzApril” or letting customers know that April is Jazz Month. Logos and graphics are available for download on JazzApril’s website.
- Playing jazz in the store throughout the month
- Creating a display of jazz books
- Offering a discount or promotion on jazz books
- Hosting a jazz author reading event. JazzApril helps connect stores with authors. Bookstores interested in hosting should e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Promote JazzApril via social networks, using the hashtag #jazzapril