Books

Is That A Poem In Your Pocket, Or Is It Something Even Verse?

A pen writing on paper. i i
iStockphoto.com
A pen writing on paper.
iStockphoto.com

I just want you to know first that I wrote that headline just so that you would come here to tell me how terrible, how agonizing, how truly depressingly abhorrent it is, and then when you got here, I could remind you that it's Poem In Your Pocket Day!

No, it really is.

It's Poem In Your Pocket Day, from the Academy Of American Poets, co-sponsored by the National Council Of Teachers Of English and some other folks. I have decided to stretch the premise to its absolute limit by declaring that since this is my pocket (of the world), I will mention a couple of poems here, and then ask you to mention one that you like, and then we'll all have poems in our pockets, and that will make poets happy, and ... wait, I'm not sure poets are supposed to be happy. But anyway.

I once read a gigantic e.e. cummings biography for work (!!), so it's not only the ubiquity that makes me say I have a fondness for some of his stuff — I like "my father moved through dooms of love," which has more gorgeousness in just that line than many people will produce in their lifetimes.

And yes, like many others, I will make the thoroughly predictable pick of "The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock," which you should read aloud immediately if you never have (the people in your office will love it). The fact that it's so well-known that it was once referenced without comment on Law & Order (when a schlub who had fallen for the wrong woman sighed, "Just once, I dared to eat the peach") doesn't mean it isn't awfully good. "In a minute there is time / For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse." Dang, you can use that every day.

But if I had to put only one poem in my pocket, I would pick "Cotton Candy On A Rainy Day" by Nikki Giovanni. It's the title poem from a collection of her work that was recommended to me by a teacher when I was in tenth grade, and it includes the line, "I share with the painters the desire / To put a three-dimensional picture / On a one-dimensional surface." For some reason, that line perfectly encapsulated every frustration I had about being a high-school student who, like most high-school students, felt that nobody understood anything I was trying to say, ever.

So: What poem would you put in your pocket?

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