We have a big holiday approaching, one you may have never heard about, but nevertheless worth celebrating. Thursday is Poem in Your Pocket Day. It can be celebrated by carrying a poem in your pocket and sharing it with anybody you happen to meet.
This is a holiday which is right down my alley. I have read and enjoyed poetry since I could read at all, and maybe before. As a tot I liked nursery rhymes and Robert Louis Stevenson’s, “A Child’s Garden of Verses.” In fact, I’ve been trying to find a copy of Stevenson’s book for a year or two, but it has apparently fallen from fashion and is no longer in the public libraries I patronize.
My first successful exposure to poetry written for adults came at the age of six. My big brother left his freshman literature text lying around, and I read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s, “Rime of the Ancient Mariner.” I do not claim I was precocious enough to appreciate all the symbolism, but I was hooked on the sounds. “Alone, alone, all alone, alone on the wide, wide sea, and never a soul took pity on my soul in agony.” And even a 6-year-old can understand, “He prayeth well who loveth well.”
I am tempted to say that from that moment on I loved poetry. However, I suppose that is as much a fallacy as the statement I sometimes hear, “I hate poetry.” I used to tell students that was just like tasting spinach, turning up your nose and saying, “I hate food.” I love much of the poetry I read, and it is worth reading through some I don’t like in order to discover the gems. There is poetry on practically every subject to appeal to practically every taste.
A few years ago Janet Bryant in Marion celebrated Poem in Your Pocket Day by gathering together a group of poetry lovers to read poetry aloud. After all, poetry is related as much to music as to prose and should be read aloud. I was unable to attend that first celebration, but some of those attending enjoyed it so much they made it a monthly event. I go whenever I am able.
Some of the group reads poetry they have written themselves. I think I have only gotten brave enough to do that once, but I think I may get bolder this month. Usually we meet on the fourth Thursday at the Marion Public Library, but we have moved it to the fifth Thursday this month to fall on the holiday itself, making it an extra special occasion.
I imagine some of my readers love poetry, at least some poetry. Years ago as a reading project leader in 4-H, I brought books of different types to a project meeting. When I mentioned poetry, one little girl uttered the common complaint, “I hate poetry.” When I produced a book of poems by Shel Silverstein, she exclaimed, “Oh, I love him.” When I reminded her she had just said she hated poetry, she replied, “I do, but I love him.”
If there is poetry you love, come and read it to us Thursday evening.