2024 is off to a busy start for the Academy of American Poets. The national organization and publisher of contemporary poetry, along with Scholastic, has announced author-illustrator Jack Wong as the artist for its annual Poetry Month poster. Featuring lines from Lucille Clifton’s poem “blessing the boats,” the poster will be distributed free of charge to 85,000 classrooms, libraries, bookstores, community centers, and homes to commemorate the month-long event in April.

The Academy of American Poets, which is celebrating its 90th anniversary, is also collaborating with 826 National, the country’s largest youth writing network, on Dear Poet 2024. For the first time since its 2015 inception, the multimedia educational project will highlight a series of poems in both English and Spanish to promote bilingual readership.

Illustrating Innocence

Wong was selected by Scholastic to create the artwork for the 2024 poster, which includes the poem’s line, “and may you in your innocence / sail through this to that.” Andrea Davis Pinkney, v-p, Scholastic Trade Publishing, commented on Wong’s fitting vision for the poster: “His rendering of a child gleefully taking a plunge into a wide-open lake is emblematic of poetry’s power, freedom, and joyful abandon.”

This year marks the second time that the Academy and Scholastic have teamed up on the poster, which is distributed via the American Booksellers Association, the American Library Association, and the National Council of Teachers of English. Free copies are also available online, and a lesson plan including the poster and Clifton’s “blessing the boats” can be accessed here.

Also with the aim of fostering students’ interest in poetry is the Academy’s partnership with 826 National on its Dear Poet 2024 program. For the past nine years, aspiring writers in grades five through 12 are encouraged to compose letters and send questions to award-winning poets. Selected letters are then read by the poets, including chancellors who serve as artistic advisors to the academy and national ambassadors of poetry. (Clifton herself held a chancellor position from 1999–2004.) This year’s poets are Leila Chatti, Chen Chen, Nicole Cecilia Delgado, John James. and Mara Pastor, along with chancellors Marilyn Chin, Nikky Finney, Ed Roberson, and Patricia Smith.

“After receiving an unprecedented number of letters from students and teachers over the last few years, we wanted to figure out ways to make the project as accessible, engaging, and timely as possible, while still being able to spend time with each student letter received,” said Academy of American Poets president and executive director Ricardo Maldonado. Through 826 National’s nine in-person chapters of volunteers and educators, Dear Poet will now be able to reach hundreds of thousands of students nationwide.

The Academy has also tapped Delgado and Pastor, both Spanish-speaking poets, to share their work in its original and translated forms, marking what Maldonado calls “a first step toward offering programs that reflect the language diversity of communities we serve across the country.” Two short supplemental lesson plans are available online, here and here.

Dear Poet 2024, which is supported by Penguin Random House, is accepting submissions through April 22. To participate, visit the Academy of American Poets website. A booklet containing the poems read by this year’s poets, along with student letters and poet responses, will be published online in June.