Thursday, April 18, 2013

Happy Poem in Your Pocket Day 2013 ! (And A Great Poetry Resource too!)

Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, one of the events for National Poetry Month, a month-long celebration of poetry held in April each year by the Academy of American Poets.  On April 18--Poem in Your Pocket Day--people are urged to carry a piece of poetry in their pockets and to share it with other people during the day.  It is a fun activity to get poetry out of the hallowed halls of academia and into everyday life.

My selection for this year's pocket poem is Mark Doty's "A Display of Mackerel":

A Display of Mackerel 
They lie in parallel rows, 
on ice, head to tail, 
each a foot of luminosity 

barred with black bands, 
which divide the scales' 
radiant sections 

like seams of lead 
in a Tiffany window. 
Iridescent, watery 

prismatics: think abalone, 
the wildly rainbowed 
mirror of a soapbubble sphere, 

think sun on gasoline. 
Splendor, and splendor, 
and not a one in any way 

distinguished from the other 
--nothing about them 
of individuality. Instead 

they're all exact expressions 
of one soul, 
each a perfect fulfillment 

of heaven's template, 
mackerel essence. As if, 
after a lifetime arriving 

at this enameling, the jeweler's 
made uncountable examples, 
each as intricate 

in its oily fabulation 
as the one before. 
Suppose we could iridesce, 

like these, and lose ourselves 
entirely in the universe 
of shimmer--would you want 

to be yourself only, 
unduplicatable, doomed 
to be lost? They'd prefer, 
plainly, to be flashing participants, 
multitudinous. Even now 
they seem to be bolting 

forward, heedless of stasis. 
They don't care they're dead 
and nearly frozen, 

just as, presumably, 
they didn't care that they were living: 
all, all for all, 

the rainbowed school 
and its acres of brilliant classrooms, 
in which no verb is singular, 

or every one is. How happy they seem, 
even on ice, to be together, selfless, 
which is the price of gleaming. 

Copied from, the website of the Academy of American Poets

I chose this poem for several reasons.  First, last year we were involved in a year-long Oceans Coop that culminated in an unforgettable trip to study the coral reefs in the Virgin Islands.  So the nominal subject matter-fish--is close to my heart.  Secondly, several lines in there really reminded me of a wonderful art exhibit called "Carbon Load" that my son's very talented art teacher, Jenny Eggleston of Egg in Nest Art Studio, had at ArtSpace in 2011.

Mostly, however, I think I picked this poem because I read a wonderful essay by Doty on his thought process as he was composing this poem.  It is a wonderful explanation of how poetry can proceed from a simple, everyday image--like a row of fish on ice--to a grander statement on the nature of life, death, and everything in between.  Entitled "Souls on Ice," it is a great resource for students and teachers trying to better comprehend the magic and magnificence that is poetry.  I recommend you read it on the website.

And don't forget to share your favorite poem with other people today!

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