Thursday, April 14, 2011

Lesson Plan: National Poem in Your Pocket Day

There is so much to celebrate in April!  But I didn't want today to go by without recognizing that April 14, 2011 is National Poem in Your Pocket Day.

The idea behind Poem in Your Pocket Day is to carry a short poem in your pocket and to pull it out of your pocket and read it to people you come in contact with during the day.  I usually don't organize a formal event for this, but I do encourage my son to participate (and I do as well, of course) by picking out a poem relating to what we are studying and sharing it with the people we see that day.  Most years we have some class or coop he can read it to, but I almost always make sure we visit a library or our local independent bookstore that day so we know we will have at least one receptive audience.

Right now, we have been studying the American Civil War and Reconstruction, so our poetry choices this year have come from the man who is probably the most famous American poet--Walt Whitman.  Here is the poem that my son chose for today:

I Celebrate (an excerpt from Song of Myself)
by Walt Whitman

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

I loaf and invite my soul,
I lean and loaf at my ease observing a spear of summer grass

My tongue, every atom of my blood, formed from this soil, this air,
Born here of parents born here from parents the same, and their parents the same,
I, now thirty-seven years old in perfect health begin,
Hoping to cease not till death.

And my poem for the day is:
by Walt Whitman 
WHY! who makes much of a miracle? 
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, 
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan, 
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky, 
Or wade with naked feet along the beach, just in the edge of the water, 
Or stand under trees in the woods, 
Or talk by day with any one I love--or sleep in the bed at night with any one I love, 
Or sit at table at dinner with my mother, 
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car, 
Or watch honey-bees busy around the hive, of a summer forenoon, 
Or animals feeding in the fields, 
Or birds--or the wonderfulness of insects in the air, 
Or the wonderfulness of the sun-down--or of stars shining so quiet and bright, 
Or the exquisite, delicate, thin curve of the new moon in spring; 
Or whether I go among those I like best, and that like me best--mechanics, boatmen,farmers, Or among the savans--or to the soiree--or to the opera,  
Or stand a long while looking at the movements of machinery,  
Or behold children at their sports,  
Or the admirable sight of the perfect old man, or the perfect old woman, 
Or the sick in hospitals, or the dead carried to burial,   
Or my own eyes and figure in the glass; 
These, with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles, 
The whole referring--yet each distinct, and in its place. 

To me, every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, 
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle, 
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same, 
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same; 
Every spear of grass--the frames, limbs, organs, of men and women, and all that concerns    them, 
All these to me are unspeakably perfect miracles. 

To me the sea is a continual miracle;  
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships, with men in them, 
What stranger miracles are there?
So mine is a recognition of the everyday miracles all around us, while my son chose his because he sees it as a paean to goofing off...which, if you read his blog, he claims to be inordinately fond of (although he exaggerates the extent to which he actually does that).  That actually tell you more about us than about Whitman, though...  Especially with the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, you hear more lately about his war poems ("Beat! Beat! Drum!",  "Ashes of Soldiers") or his Lincoln poems ("Oh Captain!  My Captain!"), but we are drawn to his earlier, more exuberant ones.

Anyway, today is our monthly trip for an activity with the elderly at an assisted living place we have been visiting for 11 years now, so we'll get to read our poems there.  He also has a book club at an area library, so that will be an excellent opportunity to share poems.  Another local library is having a Poem in the Pocket event, so we'll probably stop by there, and perhaps a third library to pick up a book we have on hold--and to read more poetry!

So grab a poem, stick it in your pocket, and start sharing it with people today.  Any excuse to get middle schoolers reading poetry aloud is a good thing, I think.


  1. Any reason to get people sharing with others is a good thing.

  2. Well, that's certainly true!