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National Poetry Month, otherwise known as April, is a celebration of poetry introduced in 1996 and organized by the Academy of American Poets, which 1n 1995 had convened a group of publishers, booksellers, librarians, literary organizations, poets, and teachers to discuss the need and usefulness of a month-long holiday to celebrate poetry. In a proclamation issued on April 1, 1996, president Bill Clinton declared, "National Poetry Month offers us a welcome opportunity to celebrate not only the unsurpassed body of literature produced by our poets in the past, but also the vitality and diversity of voices reflected in the works of today's American poetry.... Their creativity and wealth of language enrich our culture and inspire a new generation of Americans to learn the power of reading and writing at its best." The AAP provides free educational resources to teachers for classroom celebrations and activities and commissions an annual festival poster, which it distributes to schools, libraries, and community centers for free. In 1998, with the American Poetry & Literacy Project, it distributed 100,000 free books of poetry. In 2001 it invited people to suggest poets they wanted to have on a postage stamp; more than 10,000 people participated, and Langston Hughes received the most votes, and in January 2002 the United States Postal Service issued a Langston Hughes stamp. That year, the Academy organized a Poetry & the Creative Mind gala to raise funds, and it has become an annual event at which leading artists, scholars, and public figures read their favorite poems; hosted each year by Meryl Streep, the event has featured readings by Liam Neeson, Tony Kushner, Maya Lin, Sam Waterston, Suzan-Lori Parks, Minnie Driver, Dan Rather, Agnes Gund, Frank Rich, Diane von Fürstenberg, Wynton Marsalis, Alan Alda, Wendy Whelan, Mike Wallace, Dianne Wiest, Oliver Sacks, Gloria Vanderbilt, William Wegman, and Christopher Durang, among others. In 2006 it launched Poem-a-Day, publishing one new poem on its website (Poets.org) each day during the month; Poem-a-Day is now a daily, year-long series, syndicated by King Features. Numerous books and poetry compilations have been published acknowledging National Poetry Month, such as The Knopf National Poetry Month Collection by Random House and Celebrating National Poetry Month by children's book author and poet Bruce Larkin. Each year, publishers, booksellers, educators, and literary organizations use April to promote poetry: publishers often release and publicize their poetry titles in April, teachers and librarians focus on poetry units during the month, and bookstores and reading series frequently hold special readings. Since 1998, National Poetry Month has also been celebrated each April in Canada, sponsored by the League of Canadian Poets and organized around a different annual theme. In the UK, National Poetry Day was founded in 1994 by William Sieghart and is celebrated on the 1st or 2nd Thursday of October, when events are held in schools, pubs, arts centers, bookshops, libraries, buses, trains and Women’s Institutes; it is co-ordinated by the Forward Arts Foundation, which also awards the Forward Prizes for Poetry. In 2009 the BBC announced the results of its poll to find the nation's favorite poet; The winner was T. S. Eliot, followed by John Donne, Benjamin Zephaniah, Wilfred Owen, and Philip Larkin. In 2000 the "October is National Poetry Month" festival was founded by Celtic bard Jim MacCool and adopted by the Performance Poetry Society in Birmingham. In 1999, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) declared March 21 to be World Poetry Day to "give fresh recognition and impetus to national, regional and international poetry movements."
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