The Your Voice section of The Poet’s List showcases articles and blog posts written by poets. These pieces may or not be about poetry. Most often, they are on topics with which the poet finds passion. You can find more of these posts, here: Your Voice.
By Anne McKee
Do you have a poem in your pocket? There’s a group for that. Yep. Take a look.
The poem in your pocket thingy began in 2002. Who knew? But we know now and it’s not too late to participate. Actually, Poem in your Pocket Day is April 21 and there are tons of things one may do to become a part. Here are a few: (1) Memorize a poem. (2) Add a poem to your email footer. (3) Send a poem to a friend. (4) Urge local businesses to offer discounts for those who carry poems. (Good luck with that one.)
Personally, I sort of like this pushing-poetry idea. I mean it certainly has more integrity than car-jacking and street riots. Just think if all of those folks who jacked a car or blew up a business had instead quoted poetry? The world would be a better place, don’t you think?
2016 marks the 20th anniversary of National Poetry Month. According to their website, the National Poetry Month initiative has become the largest literary celebration in the world with schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers and poets celebrating poetry’s vital place in our culture. That gives me hope for the future.
A few years back, I participated with a poetry reading. I must say we had a packed house the night of the event. It was a wonderful surprise to hear Sheriff Billy Sollie read his favorite poem, plus additional leaders of our community read theirs. We had invited high school students as well who on that night fluttered into the building with twinkling eyes and dressed-in their-Sunday-best to read a poem. It was a wonderful night.
In Mississippi we are fortunate to have a talented Pulitzer Prize winner as the state’s Poet Laureate. Natasha Trethewey was appointed by Gov. Haley Barbour. Her book of poetry, “Native Guard” won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize in Poetry. She has only a short time to complete her term and a new Mississippi Poet Laureate will be named. As an aside: I was honored to meet the poet and buy her book. Natasha signed it to me and I had my photo made with her – a red letter day!
For several years I served as a judge for the Mississippi Poetry Out Loud competition. According to the website, The National Endowment for the Arts and the Poetry Foundation have partnered with U.S state arts agencies to support Poetry Out Loud, a contest that encourages the nation’s youth to learn about great poetry through memorization and recitation. This program helps students master public speaking skills, build self-confidence, and learn about their literary heritage.
I encourage you to research the Poetry Out Loud website. All high schools in the state may compete through a pyramid-type-structure. Each state winner receives $200 in cash and their school as well receives $500 for the purchase of poetry books. In addition the winner receives an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington, DC for the National Finals. The MS State Poetry Out Loud Chairman is Ken Bolinsky. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
So, what are some of your favorite poems? I have a few: (1) “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe.” (2) “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou (3) “Why Do I Love Thee” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning (4) “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Lord Alfred Tennyson (5) “She Walks in Beauty” by George (Lord) Byron.
Although I haven’t definitely decided which poem will be in my pocket on April 21, I encourage you to be prepared by that day to have your pocket filled with a poem, rather than chocolate candy. Oh, wait a minute; doesn’t a poem and chocolate kisses go together? Of course they do.