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Thursday, April 30, 2015

Poem in Your Pocket Day 2015

Today is April 30th. The last day of April. It also happens to be this year's date for Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day celebrations!

I can't believe April is over already.

I'll be honest: this month sort of got away from me. It feels like just few days ago that I was making birthday treats for my  youngest daughter whose birthday is at the end of March. I had only a vague awareness that we'd moved into April. Some friends posted daily poems to celebrate Poetry Month. My lovely Poetry Month poster came in the mail. (Thank you,!) I was introduced to the moving poems of Mary Oliver. On the periphery of my consciousness, then, I knew this day was coming. Yet the reminder email that popped up in my inbox last night was like a cold glass of water in my face. Crap! Tomorrow is Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day? Already???

Still, last year I made that nifty pocket pouch and I'd saved a Word document of appropriate poems to print out, so even though I was doing things kind of impromptu, I had the proper tools set up for a good showing today.

BUT I wasn't sure my first grader would want to do it this year. See, several months back she made an announcement to the effect of, "I think I may not want to do poetry day this year." (Fairly unequivocal, right?) At the time, I worked hard to make my voice sound neutral as I responded, "Oh? Why not?" Of course I had my hunches. She's in first grade, so that refreshing carefree quality younger kids possess is starting to evaporate, and in its place is the too-prevalent quality of not wanting to be "different." Few people seem to know that this day exists-- no doubt it ranks somewhere above "National Zipper Day"* but probably below "National Pancake Day" (if only the Academy of American Poets had as much reach as International House of Pancakes...) so it's hardly mainstream and, as such, draws some stares when someone is, you know, handing out poems like they're gifts. It turns out my suspicions were correct. I didn't push it with her because, for one thing, the best way to ensure she'd never want to do it again would have been to insist she do it. More importantly, though, I don't want it to be something she feels she has to do; I want it to be something she loves to do. So if she doesn't want to hand out poems, I'm certainly not going to make her do it.

Yesterday, after I read the email reminder, I mentioned at dinner, "Guess what? Tomorrow is the last day of April. And it's Poem in Your Pocket Day." My daughter immediately perked up and said, "Poem day? Yay!" I said, "Oh, I didn't make the poems. Do you want to give them out this year? " She did, indeed. So I set about to printing and scrolling the poems and filled the pocket. When I gave it to her this morning, she was excited and tried out several ways to wear the bag-- like a purse? like a cross-body satchel? holding the loop?--and even changed her shirt to better match the pink pocket bag. And off she went to school with the poems. (Though my husband reported that her excitement seemed to flag a bit when he dropped her off. It seems she tried to cover the pocket with her Frozen school bag in an effort to hide it. So this may well end up being the last year she makes the trek to school with poems.)

This year I selected an assortment of funny poems mostly by children's poets covering kid-friendly topics (like having a bad day, dealing with messy rooms, being stung by a bee, and even one about farting!). I also left a few more mature ones with universal themes (about nature and equality) in the rotation from last year's batch. When I made the selections, I picked things kids could read themselves and understand. I consider this a good opportunity to turn kids on to poetry so by the time they start formally studying it in school, they'll "like" poetry and will be more open to learning about it, reading it, and writing their own.

Here's the lineup:

"Invitation" by Shel Silverstein
"Keep a Poem in Your Pocket" by Beatrice Schenk de Regniers
"Messy Room" by Shel Silverstein
"Hug O' War" by Shel Silverstein
"Today I Had a Rotten Day" by Kenn Nesbitt
"Favorite Words" by Kenn Nesbitt
"The Average Hippopotamus" by Jack Prelutsky
"I Dream a World" by Langston Hughes
"April Rain Song" by Langston Hughes
"Eletelephony" by Laura Elizabeth Richards
"I Made a Noise This Morning" by Jack Prelutsky
"Today" by Billy Collins
"Kitty Caught a Caterpillar" by Jack Prelutsky

As for me? This year I'll be venturing out with a Mary Oliver poem in my pocket.

The Journey

by Mary Oliver

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice --
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
"Mend my life!"
each voice cried.
But you didn't stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save.

I wish you well as you go about your own journey today. May you enjoy your experiences and (hopefully) celebrate the poetry in your own life.

*FYI: When I typed National Zipper Day in my post, I didn't know at that moment if any such day existed, though it seemed like one of those funny things that would exist. A trusty google search revealed that not only does it exist, but it was just yesterday, April 29th. What a funny coincidence!