Sunday, April 02, 2006

Lisa Tolliver has attained the status of Poetry Ambassador

WESTCHESTER COUNTY, NY - I was pleasantly surprised to receive an email containing the enclosed certificate and email message (below) stating that I had been designated a 2006 National Poetry Month Ambassador. It was nice to be recognized this way.

As someone who loves reading, enjoys writing and sometimes publishes and publicly recites poetry, I am reminded of a poem by Naomi Shihab Nye. "Famous" aptly puts honors like this in relative perspective. Here is an excerpt:

I want to be famous in the way a pulley is famous,
or a buttonhole, not because it did anything spectacular,
but because it never forgot what it could do.

Despite my appreciation for poetry and for receiving this honor, I must own up to thinking twice about acknowledging the Ambassadorship. The controversial reputation of the International Library of Poetry ("ILP"), which bestowed the distinction, renders this honor a dubious one. On the other hand, one can't help but admire the ILP's brilliant marketing strategy and remember that promotion of National Poetry Month is eminently worthwhile.

Finally, I concluded that shouldering the Ambassador mantle would provide an excellent opportunity to leverage my platforms as a journalist, business counselor and educator to benefit others and fulfill my four-eyed mission (to inform, instruct, intrigue and inspire audiences). My goals in this instance are to kindle widespread appreciation for poetry and pull back the curtain on the ILP wizards' great and powerful National Poetry Month marketing strategy.

The most obvious tactics comprising this well-executed guerilla marketing campaign include: designating as Poetry Month Ambassadors registrants at and other endeavors sponsored by the ILP; communicating with the Ambassadors via email (which is cheaply, easily and rapidly distributed, forwarded and incorporated into other media, such as this blog and its RSS feeds); promoting National Poetry Month and sponsorship of school and youth poetry programs (rather than hyping ILP's commercial ventures); and encouraging donations to highly esteemed organizations such as the National Endowment for the Arts and local libraries (in whose haloes ILP can bask). Proof of the campaign's success is the firestorm of viral marketing that it has generated (and which this blog is helping to fan). All of the above is likely stoking recognition, recall and credibility for ILP's brands, a spike in activity for the organization's websites, and purchases of ILP products, services and event tickets. Let us hope that the ILP will actually merit the positive PR that they are generating.

Here's the text of the email that accompanied the certificate.

Dear Lisa,

On behalf of the International Library of Poetry (ILP) / National Poetry Month Committee, you are now officially registered as a 2006 Poetry Ambassador. Congratulations on accepting this distinct honor for your friends, family, and community and for doing your part to spread your love of poetry.

In recognition of this exceptional honor, please accept the beautiful
award certificate accompanying this letter with our National Poetry Month Seal. This certificate of distinction is something you should be proud to display for all your friends and family to see.

As a way to further recognize your contributions as a Poetry Ambassador, we are planning to register your name and your poetic activities on the 2006 National Poetry Month Poetry Ambassador Online Directory. Attached to this email is a Poetry Ambassador Services Form.

We would love to hear about all your poetic activities during National Poetry Month. Please fill out this form as soon as your volunteer work is completed.

Remember, your only obligation as a Poetry Ambassador is to share your love of poetry. Of course, we hope you join the International Library of Poetry and donate some of your time or money to the worthy causes in support of poetry in our culture. Attached is a list of
101 Ways to Celebrate National Poetry Month; these are suggested ideas and activities for celebrating National Poetry Month. Here at the International Library of Poetry, we treat the entire month as though it were a month-long holiday. We are celebrating this year by supporting local schools in the Baltimore, Maryland area. Our staff developed a lesson plan to go along with textbooks that we donate to schools. We hope that these poetry lessons will last for generations. Our professional Editorial Advisory Board gets into the volunteering act, too! They volunteer throughout the year with adult literary and community projects, as well as after school youth programs. All poets, whether professional or amateur, are truly generous people.

Some of our suggestions for promoting the public support of poetry are to read classic, contemporary, or even your own poetry aloud. There are many places where people of all ages congregate, and many of them welcome volunteers to read poetry. For example, libraries, daycare centers, schools, after school programs, literacy organizations, community associations, nursing homes, and churches have allocated a certain amount of time for outside volunteers. Why don't you give one of them a call and offer to read your favorite poetry? Reading poetry aloud and introducing it to a new audience can be one of the most rewarding experiences imaginable.

If you don't have time to volunteer, then why don't you read a book of poetry at home? Or perhaps you can attend a poetry reading at your local bookstore or library. If you can't recite poetry in front of a crowd, then share a poem with a family member or a friend. One of our favorite things to do is to send a poem to a friend or loved one. It doesn't matter if you wrote it or if it's an old favorite.

If you cannot donate your time to sharing poetry, then consider donating a few dollars. There are thousands of charitable organizations that can use your financial help. The
National Endowment for the Arts is our favorite. The U.S. Congress established it in 1965, and its mission is to encourage artistic creativity and to make art education available to everyone. You could also help to spread the gift of poetry by buying a book of poetry and donating it to your local library. Many libraries have limited budgets, so donating a book of poetry increases the poetry available to everyone in your area.

As a Poetry Ambassador, you have the wonderful opportunity to share something of yourself with your friends, family, and community. As the great American poet Robert Frost once said, "The only lasting beauty is the beauty of the heart." That is why we are challenging our poets to show us the beauty of their hearts by spreading the joy of poetry. Whether you like to write poetry, read poetry, or do both, we know that poetry is important to you. This year we can make a difference and spread the gift of love, peace, and poetry.

Yours truly,

Edward Moffet III
ILP / National Poetry Month Committee

P.S. Remember to complete your Poetry Ambassador Services Form so we can submit your name and activities to our 2006 National Poetry Month Poetry Ambassador Online Directory.

To learn what I'm doing to spread my love of poetry and promote this 10th Anniversary of National Poetry Month and Young People's Poetry Week (April 9-15th in Canada and April 10-16 in the USA), check out my blog (Lisa Tolliver On Air and Online) throughout the month. You'll find entries such as:

Happy reading, writing and reciting! ###