Thursday, April 17, marks the observance of the very first National Poem in Your Pocket Day, when poetry lovers are urged to put a copy of their favorite poem in their pocket and read it aloud to willing listeners–and listen to them read their favorite poems in turn.
Originating in New York City, Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day has been celebrated city-wide in April since 2002, sending New Yorkers to parks and bookstores to read poems aloud, with even the mayor reading a poem over the radio. This year it’s a nation-wide festival, a day to celebrate the pleasures of poetry.
It’s an exciting thought that across the United States, schools, libraries, workplaces, coffee shops and sidewalks could be filled with the sounds of people reading poems aloud. Children may find poems tucked in their lunch bags, waitstaff in restaurants may be handed a poem as well as a tip, and sidewalk chalk could turn a public playground into a bouquet of poetry.
A store in my neighborhood is giving away copies of a favorite poem for customers to put in their pockets on Thursday, and I’m happily choosing which poem I will read to my favorite four-year-old. It’s not an easy choice, but it’s so much fun searching for the one that will be just right. I’m almost certain that it will be Ogden Nash’s The Tale of Custard the Dragon, which has delighted small children of my acquaintance for decades–as it still does me.
Next year I plan to have a poetry party on April 17, with food inspired by sonnets and sestinas, lots of reading aloud, and ending it with tying poems to the strings of balloons, sending them aloft, and setting them free. Come to think of it, I’m not sure I can wait a whole year before doing that–poetry potluck, anyone?