Tuesday, March 25, 2008

What’s Your Poem?

Poem in Your Pocket Day LogoThis year, the Academy of American Poets is introducing a new celebration as part of National Poetry MonthPoem in Your Pocket Day. On April 17, people across the United States are invited to choose a favorite poem and carry it in their pockets. Just carrying a poem is only part of the celebration though. During the day, poetry lovers are encouraged to unfold and read their pocketed poems in celebration of the visions of poets.

This may be the most challenging day ever for an English teacher like me. How can I possibly choose just one poem? When I first discussed Poem in Your Pocket Day with colleagues, one of them joked about carrying around a copy of “The Wasteland” in his pocket. I love Eliot too, but I’d be more likely to carry “Preludes.” It’s far more portable, but it’s also filled with imagery that I love.

But could I limit it just to “Preludes”? What about my love for the deep allusions in Ezra Pound’s “Hugh Selwyn Mauberly”? Sure everyone knows “In a Station of the Metro”—and there is perhaps no poem more perfectly suited for pocketing—but my heart belongs to the classical references of “Mauberly.” Yet is that the right poem?

What about all those Nikki Giovanni poems I adore? And how can I forget Robert Frost and Langston Hughes? Wait, and Chaucer, Shakespeare, and Blake? And I have such a nice soft spot for Christina Rossetti. And I almost forgot about William Butler Yeats!

Perhaps choosing is just too difficult. Maybe I should just write my own, with apologies to William Carlos Williams:

so much depends

a single

laced with waiting

inside my pants

Not the work of a great poetic mind, but how can you choose just one anyway? So what’s your poem? What poet will you carry in your pocket for Poem in Your Pocket Day?


Cathryn said...

Definitely a Hopkins one today: "That Nature is a Heraclitean Fire and of the comfort of the Resurrection." http://www.bartleby.com/122/48.html

Or maybe "As Kingfishers Catch Fire, Dragonflies Draw Flame." http://www.sparknotes.com/poetry/hopkins/section5.rhtml

Neither are especially well-suited to classroom discussion, I suppose, but don't you love the ringing of Hopkins' language?

Traci Gardner said...

Hopkins is wonderful too, but my memories of his poetry are all tied up with my love for the college professor who first made me realize that I wanted to be an English major, Alison Sulloway. She was a Hopkins scholar, and her passion for the poetry was contagious. It wasn't so much that I have ever loved Hopkins that much. I just wanted to learn to care about words and images and sounds that much.

johnny d said...

What a great idea...

I'm reminded of Billy Collins imagining a poetry reading which Dante begins by saying, "I will be reading only 3 poems today..."

I'll have to wear a jacket with pockets large enough for the "Inferno!"

Anonymous said...

If you are having trouble choosing, the Academy of American Poets has a sampling of pocket poems (including "As Kingfishers Catch Fire...") on Poets.org:


Anonymous said...

For years, I have used a trilogy of poems all about books and reading. I begin with Emily Dickinson's poem that begins "There is no frigate like a bok," segue to Judith Viorst's poem that opens, "I'm lying here sick in my bed with a terrible, horrible pain in my head and my 'O, wow' book," and finish off with McCords's "Books fall open."

Yesterday, I skimmed through 3 new col.lections of poems for children and teens. What a perfect day! I guess I will have to purchase one of those photographer vests that have dozens of pockets for April 17th.


PS: Kudos on the publication of your book, Traci!

Anonymous said...

With Mother's Day also approaching this spring, Colm Breathnach's "The Road" is an appropriate choice to carry around.

JCM said...

Probably Franz Wright's "The Only Animal," which is dark, but movingly redemptive. (I was in fact going to suggest "In A Station of the Metro," but you beat me to it.)

Denise McNelly said...

As others remark, I find it difficult to choose. Yet, I'm going to carry "They Feed They Lion" by Phil Levine. To me, though much anthologized, it's not as well known as it should be, especially when Levine's speaker carries as much emotion as any recent Slam Poem or Rap / Hip Hop tune. As well, I believe the ideas to be just as relevant to today's society as when first published.

Stacy Goldberger said...

What a fun idea! I just printed out a Dorothy Parker poem and will be carrying it around tomorrow.

I'll have to try something like this with my students.

Anonymous said...

Mine is certainly pocket sized and perfect in other ways as well. I'm going to carry "Keeping Things Whole" by Mark Strand.



Michael McVey said...

If accosted by a poetry enthusiast on April 17, I will pull from my pocket a blank piece of paper and recite "The Love Song of Wandering Aengus."