The New Brunswick Free Public Library Inspires Poets with Anthology

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Courtesy of the New Brunswick Free Public Library

By Samantha York

To celebrate National Poetry Month in April, the New Brunswick Free Public Library is offering poets the opportunity to have their poems published in the 18th Annual Poetry Month Anthology.

National Poetry Month is the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets focused on the importance of poetry in society and culture.

The Annual Poetry Month Anthology, which was started by the library in 1998, is open to all poets, students and adults, from novice to previously published, and within the U.S. or abroad.

According Jacquelyn Oshman, the library’s senior librarian, the anthology was originally about 20 pages long and open only to adults living in New Brunswick. Today, the anthology is between 40-60 pages and includes poems from children and even a submission from the U.K.

The youngest poet included in the anthology last year was 6 years old. Although many poets enter who have been published in journals, books, or online, there are some who have never written a poem before and ask for copies for all of their family members.

“Everyone loves having their poetry published and seen by so many people,” Oshman said.

For the past 10 years, Dr. Michelle Shields, a teacher at New Brunswick High School, has encouraged her students to submit to the anthology.

“My students write poems about the struggles of inner city life, love, teenage challenges, deception, nationalistic pride and trust,” Shields said. “I encourage them to continue to write. I tell them: when you feel happy – write. When you feel sad – write. When you feel overwhelmed – write. It is a sort of cleansing for the soul.”

Shields, who was recently awarded “Educator of the Year” by the New Brunswick Board of Education and “Teacher of the Year” by the New Brunswick Knights of Columbus, said the anthology gives her students a chance to be noticed and have confidence in writing.

“It makes them feel special and makes them a part of the great community of local poets,” Shields said. “It is also an integral part of the college application process. It ‘raises eyebrows’ for college admissions when the students have been published.”

For the last three years, the anthology was sponsored by the Raritan Valley Federation of Libraries and included participation from Bernards Township, Bernardsville, Dunellen, Middlesex, and Raritan.

“This year, these libraries felt their staff did not have enough time to contribute to the programming part of the anthology so it is only being hosted by New Brunswick,” Oshman said. “We are still asking for poets from anywhere to contribute.”

All poets who are published in the anthology will receive a free copy of the book and are invited to read their poem April 25, 7-8:30 p.m. in the library’s Carl T. Valenti Community Room.

“It is usually a fun night, especially when the poets really get into character reading their poems,” Oshman said. “The library just had a new surround sound system with wireless microphones installed, so that may help with the poets who are a little quiet when they read.”

“I can’t wait for that evening in April to let the students of New Brunswick High School shine! I go to support my students,” Shields said.

Submissions are limited to two one-page poems per person in Microsoft Word using Times New Roman font, size 12, single spaced and emailed as an attachment to: nbpoetry@gmail.com. The deadline for entries to be emailed is Friday, March 18. Entry forms can be found online at http://www.nbfpl.org/docs/2016PoetrySubmissionForm.pdf or they can be picked up at the library.

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