The idea is simple. Find a poem that you love or one that makes you laugh or something that conjures up wistful memories. Write it down. Put it in your pocket and throughout the day, share it with your friends and your coworkers and the people in line at the coffee shop and the students in your class and your family at the dinner table and whoever else you come into contact with. It’s National Poetry Month. Read poetry.
If you’ve been coming here for a while, you know poetry month is something I celebrate. This month, I had the incredible experience of meeting Rita Dove, a former US Poet Laureate and listening to her describe the inspiration and research behind her Sonata Mullatica. It was a magical evening.
Rita began with her recollection of watching Immortal Beloved, a fictionalized tale about Beethoven and led us on a journey from London to Vienna to the halls of Monticello where she conducted the research that became this book of poetry. I spotted the documentary poet, Cynthia Hogue in the crowd.
Beyond her lyrical voice and warm smile, what captured me about Rita Dove was the trajectory of diligence she pursued in order to tell the tale of George Augustus Polgreen Bridgetower, a bi-racial violin virtuoso who lived in the late 1700’s. Dove began with a Google search on; Beethoven, violinist, black and from there scoured diaries and performance logs to piece together the story of this man. Where fact wasn’t forthcoming, she filled in with fiction and she tells the entire story through poetry.
From rhyme to rap we learned that Beethoven’s Sonata No. 9 in A Major, Op. 47 was actually written for Bridgetower. The two men performed it publicly in Vienna in 1803, with Beethoven on piano and Bridgetower on violin.Then, in an apparent fit of jealousy regarding a woman, Beethoven removed Bridgetower’s name. When it was published in 1805, it was the Kreutzer Sonata dedicated to the violinist Rudolphe Kreutzer who never performed it.
Sometimes it rhymes, other times not but always with clever turns of phrase. I love knowing that this art can be used for more than a mood or a postcard but can spell out a life. So how might you celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day?
Here are some tips taken from the Academy of American Poets for easy ways to celebrate:
- Start a “poem for pockets” giveaway in your school or workplace.
- Post a poem on your blog or social networking page.
- If you are a local business owner, offer discounts for customers carrying poems.
- If you are a teacher, reward students “caught” with a poem in their pocket.
- Start a street team to pass out poems in your community.
- Handwrite a few lines on the back of your business card.
- Add a poem to your email footer.
- Check out the Academy’s Poem in Your Pocket anthology books for adults and kids.
- Find more fun celebration ideas at www.poets.org/pocket