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April Is the Coolest Month (for Poetry)

By Naomi Serviss / New York City

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.

They may not mean to, but they do.

They fill you with the faults they had

And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn

By fools in old-style hats and coats,

Who half the time were soppy-stern

And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.

It deepens like a coastal shelf.

Get out as early as you can,

And don’t have any kids yourself.

-Philip Larkin, “This Be the Verse”

In 1971, British poet Philip Larkin

tickled the poetry universe

with his cynical worldview.

His salty humor

shaded a preoccupation with death,

a favorite topic.

Poetry is having a moment

this April

despite T.S. Eliot having decreed it

Not so, according to

the Academy of American Poets

a national, nonprofit,

member-supported organization

founded in New York in 1934.

The group launched National Poetry Month

in April 1966.

The rationale for all the hoopla?

To remind humanity

that poets deserve respect

as essential chroniclers

of history and heart.

This literary celebration

has drawn millions,

from K-12 teachers

to families eager to share

poetry’s magic.

You can locate

poetry readings and events

in your nabe on the

Poetry Near You calendar

on the website

If you sign up for

in April’s selections,

they’ll have been curated

by award-winning poet Naomi Shibab Nye.

Budding poets

ready to socialize again

(baby steps)

might get a charge

reciting poetry to strangers for

Poem in Your Pocket Day

on April 29th.

Keep an original or favorite poem

in your pocket and share it

with random or familiar people you encounter

in bookstores (ask politely),

libraries (quietly),

parks (outside voices acceptable),

neighborly encounters (mask-muffled)

and social media (# PocketPoem).

Poetry has been trending-plus this past year.

It’s not just a thing.

It’s cool.


Subway verses above masked riders.

Spray-painted hieroglyphics

bleed on a Brooklyn moving van.

When I was a Shoemaker Elementary school kid,

my family of origin

moved from one decrepit apartment to another.

I attended two elementary schools

and three high schools.

The schools and neighborhood libraries

were my sanctuaries.

I lost myself in stories and poetry.

Reading then writing them.

Emily Dickinson sparked me so hard

I resolved to name my daughter after her.

A few years after moving

to the Upper West Side

in Manhattan,

I noticed a flyer

advertising a poetry reading

organized by the Riverside Poets.

This is where the author happened upon the Riverside Poets 96th & Broadway
This is where the author happened upon the Riverside Poets in Manhattan

It was being held

in a small, nondescript community building

across from the subway

on W. 96th and Broadway.

I wandered in,

charmed by the run-down structure

and by Caroline,

painfully shy as she jotted down names

of poets who wanted to read their work.

That serendipitous encounter

led to me becoming

a Riverside Poet.

The group has been run

by husband-and-wife

Anthony Moscini and Norma Levy

and continues to this day,

despite the Covid-restrictions.

Weekly meetings were held, pre-pandemic,

in the Riverside Library

near Lincoln Center.

We’d each meet with a new poem,

bringing copies to share.

Then we’d take turns reading our work.

Gentle critiques followed,

along with complaints

about being short-shrifted timewise.

The best poets (imho)

were Saul and Peter,

whose writings were muscular and sobering.

One heavily made-up woman

would get dolled up

in flamboyant outfits

that crossed the border of gawdy.

Her poetry was provocative.

The median age was about 70.

A former Rockette in her 70s

wrote witty verses

about bar toadies

and their flirtations.

Anthony played ringmaster,

oiling the momentum for two hours.

A former actor

who wrote soul-bearing verse,

Anthony’s remarks were attention-getting

and often eyebrow-raising.

He got a kick from

blurting out “masturbation”

and singing its praises.

He knew that was a no-no, but it amused him.

After one time too many,

I took him aside and let him have it

in no uncertain terms:

he’d have to knock it off or I’d quit.

He stopped.

Anthony was also amusing.

And morbidly death-obsessed.

His quips were memorable:

  • “It’s very hard to write a good Holocaust poem.”

  • “It’s arch—you need a raised eyebrow when you say that.”

  • “You convey pain very well.”

  • “I think you’re talking about sex as a confection.”

  • “It’s like blatant subtlety.”

  • “I feel dread.”

Since leaving the group in 2018,

pre-hip surgery,

I miss my poet buddies

and worry about Peter’s health.

And I miss the camaraderie

and dinners

at Old John’s after workshops.

Maybe I’ll write a poem

for “Poetry in Your Pocket” day

and swing by

the Riverside Library

with my offering.


Naomi Serviss is a New York-based award-winning journalist whose work has been published in The New York Times, Newsday, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Highroads (AAA magazine), in-flight publications, spa and travel magazines and websites, including



Apr 09, 2022

They would welcome you back except for maybe Anthony. 😂

Your bff and admirer. ❤️

Apr 15, 2022
Replying to

Everything is copy. --Nora Ephron😂

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