A pencil that is disintegrating into letters. Some of the letters have arranged to form the word, "poetry."

Image credit: Shutterstock

The American Poetry Museum, founded in 2004, was one of the nation’s first museums dedicated to collecting, preserving, and interpreting American verse. What’s more is that the American Poetry Museum couldn’t have come at a more troubling time in our nation’s history.

According to the Survey of Public Participation in the Arts, in 1992, just 17% of Americans had read a poem at least once in the past year. As if that number wasn’t low enough already, the percentage of Americans who read poetry continues to decline. In 2012, only 6.7% of Americans had read a poem at least once in the past year.

Why does that matter? Because poetry challenges us to think critically about the world we live in. Some studies even suggest that reading poetry increases our sense of empathy. Poetry, through its use of concrete imagery, allows us to see the world through someone else’s eyes.

Although the museum is located in Washington D.C., most of their exhibits are available online. Take Girl for Sale for example. This exhibit uses the power of words and images to explore the issue of sex trafficking. All poems, paintings, and drawings can be viewed online here.

Then there’s the Beats to the Rhyme exhibit, which explores the relationship between spoken word poetry and hip-hop. The Beats to the Rhyme website features pictures, videos, and audio pieces that visitors can check out. There’s even a song called “Coded Language” that critically acclaimed poet Saul Williams collaborated on.

Aside from exhibits, the American Poetry Museum also hosts several events and educational programs throughout the year. The museum is currently hosting a “Youth Writing and Dialogue Workshop” for grades 2-12. Students will read, write, and perform their own poetry.

The American Poetry Museum is open on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from 11am-5pm. Their physical location, called the Center for Poetic Thought, can be found at:

716 Monroe Street NE, Studio 25
Washington, D.C. 20017