Thursday, April 4, 2013

Poem in Your Pocket: Celebrating National Poetry Month

We're four days into National Poetry Month over here in the United States.  If you know a poet, probably you know that this is the month where most everyone who writes and reads poetry takes the time to encourage the writing and reading of poems in any number of attempts to spread poems like a beautiful virus into the minds of others.  It's the month when readers are allowed to become desperate to find and infect new readers.

There are a number of ways this is done. One, for example, is by overheard transmission: this is when you find yourself in an elevator, on the way to floor 5, and a stranger begins to recite a poem.  Another method is by invitation to listen, or to be part of, a community poetry reading; many of these are recently inspired by the Favorite Poem Project begun by our former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. 

Aside: This is one of my favorite Favorite Poem mini-documentaries: 
undefinedWe Real Cool
by Gwendolyn Brooks
read by John Ulrich
South Boston, MA

Photograph by Ella Novak
used under CC license
This year, a new attempt at trying to grow Reading Culture and sustain poetry into the next century is a pocketed one.  You may never know that someone beside you has a poem in his or her pocket.  But it's true.  And if you ask, you might be given an incredulous look or, better, the poem for your pocket.

Poem in Your Pocket is a recent phenomenon that began in North Carolina, travelled to New York City, and is now spreading into the national scene.    

The Way It Works:
It's pretty self-explanatory. Put a favorite poem in your pocket and carry it about on April 18 (this is Poem-in-a-Pocket day, evidently). Make a copy for your friend's pocket. Then, join in any pocket-poem events near you, or lead one. These are some suggestions from the website:

  • Start a "poems for pockets" give-a-way in your school or workplace
  • Urge local businesses to offer discounts for those carrying poems
  • Post pocket-sized verses in public places (Do this one. Also, it would be good to leave lone pockets about, with poems in them.)
  • Handwrite some lines on the back of your business cards
  • Start a street team to pass out poems in your community
  • Distribute bookmarks with your favorite immortal lines
  • Add a poem to your email footer
  • Post a poem on your blog or social networking page
  • Project a poem on a wall, inside or out 
  • Text a poem to friends 
  • If you want to find a new poem that is already pocket-size, then you can select one from the Poem-in-a-Pocket page on

    If today were April 18, I would carry this poem in my pocket: "The Committee Weighs In" by Andrea Cohen.  And I would print a copy for your pocket, too.