Monday, April 30, 2012

Happiness is...having a poem in your pocket.

Keep a poem in your pocket
and a picture in your head
and you'll never feel lonely
at night when you are in bed

The little poem will sing to you
the little picture bring to you
a dozen dreams to dance to you
at night when you’re in bed

keep a picture in your pocket
and a poem in your head
and you'll never feel lonely
at night when you’re in bed.
~Beatrice Schenk de Regniers 

Like many teachers I used this poem often in my classroom to encourage my students to read, memorize and enjoy poetry. The last few years there has even been a formal celebration of ‘poem in your pocket day’ where people are encouraged to keep copies of their favorite poems in their pockets literally, and then to give them out and share them with people the encounter throughout the day. 

I love this idea. I love this intimate and emotional transfer of information between friends and strangers!  But even more, I love the idea of having poems readily available, at your disposal for any need or occasion. But barring keeping a poetry book with you at all times the easiest way to do this is to have one or two (or more!) memorized.

I mentioned earlier that I used to be a memorizer.  I haven't done much of it lately but even now snatches and lines of verse and rhyme will enter my thoughts unbidden and when I stop to think about it I can cobble together bits of Louis Carroll, Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson, and even Shakespeare. However it’s not often in a way that would bring honor to the writer; stanzas often come up missing, words get swapped and thoughts are truncated. If I put a lot of thought and effort into it I'm sure I could eventually do them all justice, but my brain has fallen victim to the adult onset ADHD mentality and I don't/can't concentrate the way I used to. And it's a sad thing when I think of all the friends I might have made, just waiting for me to commit them to memory. It's like having a friend to call on any time of day or night. You know just what to expect and how they'll make you feel. They can keep you company when you need it, share your tears, cheer you up, make you laugh, commiserate your loses and heartaches, take your mind off of something troublesome or just help you to pass the time.

Today marks the final day of National Poetry month so I wanted to give you a few last poems to ponder and carry you through the next little while.
  Maybe one of them will make it into your pocket, or better yet, your head!

Ars Poetica
A poem should be palpable and mute
As a globed fruit,
As old medallions to the thumb,
Silent as the sleeve-worn stone
Of casement ledges where the moss has grown –
A poem should be wordless
As the flight of birds.
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs,
Leaving, as the moon releases
Twig by twig the night-entangled trees,
Leaving, as the moon behind the winter leaves,
Memory by memory the mind –
A poem should be motionless in time
As the moon climbs.
A poem should be equal to
Not true.
For all the history of grief
An empty doorway and a maple leaf.
For love
The leaning grasses and two lights above the sea –
A poem should not mean
But be.
~Archibald MacLeish

April Rain Song
Let the rain kiss you
Let the rain beat upon your head with silver liquid drops
Let the rain sing you a lullaby
The rain makes still pools on the sidewalk
The rain makes running pools in the gutter
The rain plays a little sleep song on our roof at night
And I love the rain.
~Langston Hughes

"Nature" is what we see
"Nature" is what we see—
The Hill—the Afternoon—
Squirrel—Eclipse— the Bumble bee—
Nay—Nature is Heaven—
Nature is what we hear—
The Bobolink—the Sea—
Thunder—the Cricket—
Nay—Nature is Harmony—
Nature is what we know—
Yet have no art to say—
So impotent Our Wisdom is
To her Simplicity.
~Emily Dickinson

I Am in Need of Music
I am in need of music that would flow
Over my fretful, feeling fingertips,
Over my bitter-tainted, trembling lips,
With melody, deep, clear, and liquid-slow.
Oh, for the healing swaying, old and low,
Of some song sung to rest the tired dead,
A song to fall like water on my head,
And over quivering limbs, dream flushed to glow!

There is a magic made by melody:
A spell of rest, and quiet breath, and cool
Heart, that sinks through fading colors deep
To the subaqueous stillness of the sea,
And floats forever in a moon-green pool,
Held in the arms of rhythm and of sleep.
~Elizabeth Bishop

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