Is There a Poem in YOUR Pocket?

BookendsCindy: Things are certainly ramping up for Booklist’s May Mystery Month, but hold on, it’s still April and it’s still National Poetry Month! Tomorrow is the national Poem in Your Pocket Day and that is always worth celebrating. IMG_6336This year I created quick tabletop displays in both middle-school libraries. I cut the pockets out of a jean jacket that had seen better days, took a sharpie and wrote on the pocket, tucked a poem inside the pocket, and created a quick Word doc to display behind it. I secured it in a clear display rack and added paper and pens to the table. The fun is always in rifling through the poetry collections for old favorites and new gems to highlight with my students. It took about 10 minutes to do the whole thing.

“Poetry is a messy business.”

I also needed a new display for my hallway bulletin board promoting our ongoing Holland Area community effort “Know More Art.” I made a big pocket, accented with yellow chalk stitches and brass brads, and added some ideas for ways to share the poems you carry in your pocket.

IMG_6332After cobbling together my ideas, I made the mistake of looking on Pinterest and saw some great ideas (next year!): poems written down the back legs of jeans with poems stuffed in the back pocket or baskets of pre-printed poems, rolled and tied with ribbons for patrons to grab. And if you don’t see this until lunch on Thursday or even next week, don’t feel bad. Just photocopy a few favorite poems and put them out with a hand-scribbled sign to take a poem for your pocket. You can get PDFs of PIYPD poems ready to go right here. You can even continue the celebration into Mystery Month. I won’t tell anyone! Poetry sharing should not be limited to a single day. It should become a habit.

Poem in Your PocketIf you haven’t read Margaret McNamara and G. Brian Karas’ picture book, Poem in Your Pocket (2015), get your hands on it. It’s a real treat. Mr. Tiffin’s class has their first visiting-author event planned, with a poet who will be at school on Poem in Your Pocket Day.

“I’m going to wear my jeans with six pockets that day,” Elinor whispered to Molly.

“I’m going to have a different poem in each one.”

It’s always hard to choose just ONE poem. Sometimes it’s even harder to write one at all.

The class studies similes and metaphors, and then writes their own. They learn about haiku and acrostics and concrete poems. They write about secret objects in paper bags for their classmates to guess, and walk outside looking with their poets’ eyes. The day of the poet’s visit arrives, and after many failed attempts to produce a single poem, Elinor still doesn’t have a poem that is perfect enough. Her patient teacher cautioned that “Poetry is a messy business,” and Elinor littered her room with crumpled attempts but still came up empty. Her earlier confidence is gone as her mood matches the rainy day of the author visit, and she goes to school with a single empty pocket.

The story’s resolution is delightful, as are the many poems and classroom lessons throughout the book. The illustrations are spot on. I’ve seen these kids, this classroom, the folding metal chairs that teachers use beside their classes in assemblies, and the elementary stage in the gym/multipurpose room. This is a story that will inspire young poets, teachers, and even, perhaps, visiting authors.

So, what are you waiting for? Go find a poem, write a poem, stash it in your pocket, and share it as often as you can!





About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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