April 26 will bring National Poem-in-Your-Pocket Day this year. Believe it or not, people who accept as true the import of such a day can also understand why some others roll their eyes at the prospect.
We won’t go over that old fear-of-poetry ground that is littered with the bodies of people who had to memorize “Annabel Lee” or keep straight the difference between a trochee and a spondee, but we will say that poetry has come a long, long way since “The Song of Hiawatha” was burned into our brains. And you could do a whole lot worse than plan to have a poem in your pocket to pull out and share. You might even want to think about getting a Poem-in Your-Pocket project going.
Poems comfort. They challenge, they confirm, they affirm, they soar and burn. What’s more, poems bring people together. So, here’s an idea.
Take a look at this video about the Jefferson Madison Regional Library in Charlottesville, Virginia, and its yearly Poem-in-Your Pocket celebration. It may just inspire you to do something solo or to get a community outreach undertaking going. No matter what, it will be something to put in the good news column during these days of the sometimes overwhelmingly not-so-good.
And, finally, a tease to a poem we know will move you. Respecting copyright laws, we cannot print the whole of Heather McHugh’s “What He Thought,” but it remains one poet’s breathtaking explanation of what poetry is and why it matters. We hope her last few lines will send you to the whole poem through this link to the wonderful website of the Academy of American Poets. While you are there, do not forget to browse its home page. There you’ll find the door to much more about poets and poetry, as well as some poems to choose from for your pocket on April 26 and for the whole year through.
That is how they burned him.
That is how he died,
without a word,
in front of everyone. And poetry—
(we’d all put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on softly)—poetry
is what he thought, but did not say.