Everyone halt everything you’re doing right now! Check your pockets. You’ll probably find some lint, some change, and that crumpled up fortune from your Chinese food lunch the other day. While that’s all well and good, today’s an even better day to check your pockets for something special.
As part of National Poetry Month, April 26th has become Poem in Your Pocket Day and we are all for it. Simply pick your favorite poem, fold it up and tuck it away in your pocket, then share it with your class, at work, friends… basically anyone you want! Tag it on social media using #pocketpoem. I think it’s a beautiful thing, if you really want to know someone, really get to know them, then just read the poetry they love. It says more than you think!
The national day first came about in 2002 through the Mayor’s Office in New York City partnering with the Department of Cultural Affairs and Education. It’s a good way to see through the eyes of different people in your community as well as gain an interest in literature and poetry. Thanks to the Academy of American Poets in 2008, this poetic celebration is now running across the country, even in Canada!
So pick a poem, empty a pocket, and check out this link on how you can take part for your day.
WE LOVE POETRY. World Poetry Day is Bookstr’s favorite holiday. If there wasn’t a full on blizzard in New York today, we would be in the office reciting verses to one another all day long, you best believe. However, the fact of the matter is that there IS a full on blizzard taking place in this here city, and therefore we must content ourselves with virtually sharing our favorite poems with each other and with you!
So one of my favorite poems is On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong. The poem executes how beauty can be found even in circumstances of fear, worry, and grotesqueness. Vuong’s inexplicable looming presence gives this poem a tone of “the unknown” that compels the reader to reread, and reinterpret. Here’s an excerpt:
I wanted to disappear — so I opened the door to a stranger’s car. He was divorced. He was still alive. He was sobbing into his hands (hands that tasted like rust). The pink breast cancer ribbon on his keychain swayed in the ignition. Don’t we touch each other just to prove we are still here? I was still here once. The moon, distant & flickering, trapped itself in beads of sweat on my neck. I let the fog spill through the cracked window & cover my fangs. When I left, the Buick kept sitting there, a dumb bull in pasture, its eyes searing my shadow onto the side of suburban houses. At home, I threw myself on the bed like a torch & watched the flames gnaw through my mother’s house until the sky appeared, bloodshot & massive. How I wanted to be that sky — to hold every flying & falling at once.
In honor of World Poetry Day I want people to be able to fall in love, like I did, with Gayle Danley’s The Talk. I first came across this former national and international poetry slam champion’s work about four or five years ago. Here’s a short excerpt from The Talk:
You came from this: Maryland rain, nights of shag carpet lovin’ and days
Just $2 short of the rent;
And one afternoon you came
I wanted your father so badly it hurt
Even took his last name and flung it behind yours like a spare tire
Whatever he gave me was never enough
It was like his love was a sieve
And my desire for him
The poem is almost cinematic in its setting and tone. But what really captured me was its raw honesty, vulnerability, and truth of what it means to be human. I’m a sucker for details and this work has so many that it feels heartbreakingly familiar. Danley brings you back to a place you never were and somehow even you become stricken with nostalgia. It’s endearing, real, and heartfelt, definitely worth a read.
It’s so hard to select one single, solitary poem as a favorite, but one that’s been on my mind recently is Birches by Robert Frost. I was upstate at the weekend, staying on a property surrounded by birch trees in the snow, and it brought me back to studying Birches in school when I was fifteen. I remember Frost didn’t speak to me the way some of the other poets we studied at the time, like Emily Dickinson, did, but that I loved Birches, and it has echoed in my brain ever since. It’s a stunning tribute to nature and to youth. The phrase ‘you’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen’ never left my mind, and the imagery of the girls bending over to let their hair dry in the sun is just phenomenal. I read the whole thing sitting looking out at the snowy birches and it was just heavenly. Here’s the first verse.
When I see birches bend to left and right
Across the lines of straighter darker trees,
I like to think some boy’s been swinging them.
But swinging doesn’t bend them down to stay
As ice-storms do. Often you must have seen them
Loaded with ice a sunny winter morning
After a rain. They click upon themselves
As the breeze rises, and turn many-colored
As the stir cracks and crazes their enamel.
Soon the sun’s warmth makes them shed crystal shells
Shattering and avalanching on the snow-crust—
Such heaps of broken glass to sweep away
You’d think the inner dome of heaven had fallen.
It’s not the most interesting or unique choices for a favorite poem, but I will always love T.S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. I’ll never forget the first time I read it; it was my junior year of high school, and I was sixteen-years-old. My best friend and I had just recently seen the movie Annie Hall, and we likened the poem’s Speaker to any given Woody Allen character. Whether or not that’s an accurate comparison doesn’t necessarily matter, because that was the moment I decided I did in fact enjoy reading poetry; it’s deeply personal. Prufrock isn’t the most accessible poem out there (the beginning opens with a handful of Latin lines, and doesn’t slow down once), and while I may not fully comprehend every reference the Speaker makes I still enjoy the vast amount of imagery Eliot paints for the reader. I also highly recommend checking out T.S. Eliot’s reading of this poem, because in my mind, his voice gives the character life. Listen to the author read the poem aloud!
My favorite poet is e.e. cummings, and since feeling is first is the poem that introduced me to his work. We read it in my English class, and I suppose it stuck out because of the style and because it was the only romantic poem we read as a class (I’ve always been an incurable romantic). Not long after that I bought an entire book of his poetry, and I was hooked!
since feeling is first
who pays any attention
to the syntax of things
will never wholly kiss you;
wholly to be a fool
while Spring is in the world
my blood approves,
and kisses are a better fate
lady i swear by all flowers. Don’t cry
– the best gesture of my brain is less than
your eyelids’ flutter which says
we are for each other; then
laugh, leaning back in my arms
for life’s not a paragraph
My favorite poem is Pablo Neruda’s The Infinite One. Neruda’s love poems explore a variety of perspectives on love, heartbreak, desire, etc, but this one resonates with me because as much as we have to explore in the physical world around us, each one of us also has a world of our own that’s equally worth exploring. To me, love is all about how people see and explore the world together.
the twin doves
that rest or fly in your breast,
they travel the distances of your legs,
they coil in the light of your waist.
For me you are a treasure more laden
with immensity than the sea and its branches
and you are white and blue and spacious like
the earth at vintage time.