This year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day is Friday, April 29 — yes, I know, that’s today — and I have to confess that the annual celebration of poetry has snuck up on me.
But let’s not panic. It’s not as if we need to rent a tuxedo or get all gussied up to celebrate. All we need is a poem, and perhaps a pocket in which to put a printed copy of the poem — but, as you will see, the pocket really isn’t mandatory.
First, though, some quick background: Poem in Your Pocket Day is part of National Poetry Month, which falls in April — thanks to T.S. Eliot’s crack about April being the cruelest month. The idea behind the day is simple: You find a poem you like. You print it out. You put it in your pocket. During the course of the day, you find an opportunity to read the poem out loud, if at all possible in a venue where you won’t get arrested.
All of that was a lot simpler before the pandemic. These days, the American Academy of Poets — which sponsors the event — is suggesting alternatives other than a public reading for you to get the word out about a favorite poem: You could, for example, post the poem on your favorite social-media platform. You could add the poem to your email signature for the day. You could enliven a Zoom meeting by reading the poem. Or you could read the poem aloud from your porch or in your backyard to whatever audience is there. (If you really want an audience, you could email me at [email protected]. You could print the poem in the comments section below. Or you could call me at 541-905-4282 and read me the poem. (If I can’t answer when you call, leave the poem on my voicemail. Come to think of it, you could leave your poem on your own voicemail for the day.)
If you’re struck for inspiration about what poem to highlight, the Academy of American Poets has you covered there as well: Clicking on this link will lead you to a PDF where the academy has assembled a selection of poems that you might like. Choose one of those, or pick a personal favorite.
As for me, this year I’m staying relatively local, with a poem by Oregon’s Kim Stafford, who served a term a few years back as the state’s poet laureate. I noticed this poem earlier this week when it was featured in the academy’s Poem-A-Day program, which sends a new poem to your email every day. On many days, this will be the best email you receive.
The poem I’ve picked this year, “For the Bird Singing Before Dawn,” is about hope — which seems like a worthwhile topic these days. Instead of reprinting the entire poem here, which I’m pretty sure would be a copyright violation, I’m going to include a link to the Poem-A-Day email that included not only the poem, but a few words from Stafford about the poem. So click here to read “For the Bird Singing Before Dawn.”
And if you see me today, feel free to ask: “Is that a poem in your pocket or are you just glad to see me?” The answer is yes.