Poem In Your Pocket Day!

Today is the day to share poems! It's Poem In Your Pocket Day.

I bought a copy of Poem in Your Pocket: 200 Poems to Read and Carry (blue cover) and Poem in Your Pocket for Young Poets (red cover) to see which poems were included. Neither of them has a table of contents, but they do have detailed bibliographies. 

In the red-covered book, I was delighted to find a childhood favorite of mine, "Eletelephony" by Laura E. Richards. And a longtime February favorite, Gertrude Stein's "A Very Valentine." I read through the 100 poems and found that many of them seem to be included because they illustrate something specific: teaching poems. Bruno Navasky, who selected the poems, is a teacher and his bio explains that "he has used nearly all these poems in the classroom." Many anthologies are put together for their pedagogical value rather than chosen for the stellar qualities of the work. It depends what you want to use them for. I did find some poems that tickled my interest, particularly in the sections called, "The Sweet Earth," "Lots of Play" and "The Grandpa Knee":
  • "Only Cherries" by Kenneth Patchen
  • "The Outlet" by Emily Dickinson
  • "The Pasture" by Robert Frost
  • "maggie and milly and molly and may" by e.e. cummings
  • "Solitude" by Charles Simic
  • "Seesaw" by Thom Gunn
  • "Instruction" by Conrad Hilberry
  • "Hide and See" by Kay Ryan
  • "Moment" by Hildegarde Flanner
  • "Why Animals Stay Away" by Alberto Ríos
  • "The Hot Stove" by Hal Sirowitz
  • "why some people be mad at me sometimes" by Lucille Clifton
  • "Note to Grandparents" by Grace Paley
  • "Dudley Wright" by Franz Wright
  • "There is No Word for Goodbye" by Mary Tallmountain

In the blue-covered book, out of 200 poems selected by Elaine Bleakney, only about a dozen caught my eye. This particular collection seems to have been assembled based on their fitness for an occasion, which is fine if you would like to give a poem rather than a Hallmark card. The themes, which sound provocative enough, are: Love & Rockets; Dwellings; Friends & Ghosts; Myself I Speak & Spell; Spring & After; City, My City; Eating & Drinking; and Sonic Youth. Again, these aren't the best of the best, but there are notable ones, some great ones, and the intro about poems, money and potential by Kay Ryan is thoughtful and wry. Included in the collection is a poem I like to read to classes for its rhythm: "Apple" by Gertrude Stein.
  • "Runaways Café II" by Marilyn Hacker
  • "Paradise Motel" by Charles Simic
  • "Home Is So Sad" by Philip Larkin
  • "Entrance" by Saskia Hamilton
  • "Kitchen Song" by Laura Kasischke
  • "Watermelons" by Charles Simic
  • "The Reassurance" by Thom Gunn
  • "Tenderness and Rot" by Kay Ryan
  • "Mr. T—" by Terrance Hayes
  • "The Great Figure" by William Carlos Williams
  • "Fear" by Grace Paley
  • "DSS Dream" by Martín Espada
  • "How Lonely It Is" by Richard Wright

These poems have a freshness, even a magical quality to them. They "make the strange familiar, and the familiar, strange," a concept about art that traces back to Novalis (a.k.a. Georg Philipp Friedrich Freiherr [baron, or "free lord"] von Hardenberg), a German Romantic poet/philosopher/writer of the late 1700s: 
To romanticize the world is to make us aware of the magic, mystery, and wonder of the world; it is to educate the senses to see the ordinary as the extraordinary, the familiar as strange, the mundane as sacred, the finite as infinite.
As I sorted through all these poems I was happy to be introduced to the work of Lucille Clifton and Charles Simic, both of whom were able to "educate the senses to see…." 

Reading was worth it, as usual.


ersi marina said…
I was wondering if you like Cate Peebles?
Such a great resource! Posted in my blog about the day at

Have a great day!
Alisa said…
I'm not familiar with Cate Peebles, but I will look her up. Just found some here: http://www.lapetitezine.org/Cate.Peebles.htm
Definitely chewy imagery.
Tomika said…
Simic's Watermelon poem brought a smile to the start of my day! I'll be looking for more of his poems. Thanks for this post!
Alisa said…
You're welcome, Tomika!
It is a relief and a pleasure to find poems/artworks that make us smile, isn't it?