Wednesday, April 17, 2013

April 18 is Poem in Your Pocket Day

April is National Poetry Month and one of the prizes it holds is Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 18.

Since 2003 New York City has celebrated the day every year with activities in schools and cultural organizations. In 2008 the Academy of American Poets extended the program nationally, and since then many other cities have instituted their own annual celebrations.

Poetry. As we say in New York City, what's not to like?

I'll be carrying two poems in my pocket: "The Second Coming" by William Butler Yeats, which seems almost too appropriate this year, and a wonderful Wendell Berry poem, "The Real Work". 

The Second Coming
By William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere  
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst  
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.  
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out  
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert  
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,  
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,  
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it  
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.  
The darkness drops again; but now I know  
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,  
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,  
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Real Work
By Wendell Berry

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

What poem will you carry?

My niece Heather has chosen her pocket-sized poem: "Still Here" by Langston Hughes. Another friend, Win, has chosen William Cullen Bryant's "Thanatopsis" – which could require a deep pocket.

If you need ideas, visit the Academy of American Poets' Poem in Your Pocket Day site.

Also, do yourself a favor and download the Poetry Foundation's fabulous poetry app – you'll be able to carry hundreds of poems in your pocket every day.


  1. I love your love of poetry, Michele. As it happens, I'm celebrating Poem in Your Pocketbook Day—I actually have a copy of inaugural poet Richard Blanco's book "Looking for the Gulf Motel" in my purse as we speak. I find myself moved and calmed (even on the E train to JFK) as I read his poems about shifting between cultures and trying to find your place.

  2. He's quite wonderful, isn't he? And that book is on my list, too. Have a good flight!

  3. The Poem in Your Pocket Day choices of you and your niece are beautiful and meaningful to me. Thank you for sharing them. Today, and on many days, you and your words enrich my life, and I am grateful.

    Because I have been preoccupied, I had no poems ready for today. Reading your piece in my morning email gave me an opportunity to think about what poems have meaning for me now. I tried to add my poems for today to my comments here, but the poems and text became too long for your comment overlord, who sternly rejected me. So, I transferred my text to my Tumblr. Here is a link to it (though, I'm not sure if the link will be a live link):

    Michele, I share Susan's love for your love of poetry. (And I love the two of you just generally speaking.) It is a pleasure to have another person in my life who is much as my mom was, and is, for me about poetry. From my earliest memories of her reading poetry to me when I was a small child, she was someone to whom I knew I could say, "Listen to this. I think you will love it." You are that as well. xo.

  4. Both of those poems were wonderful. I think that this is an awesome idea. I have no clue what poem I would carry in my pocket. There are millions of wonderful and relevant poems out there, how does one choose?

    My homepage | Online PhD UK Programs

  5. Hi Roxanne,

    Many organizations have Poem-a-Day features. And yes, there are even apps for that. I suggest getting on a mailing list or downloading an app, and when you find a poem you like, find out more about the poet. You may find the poem to carry.