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Put a Poem in Your Pocket

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April 14 is Poem in Your Pocket Day. This observance began in 2004 in New York City and has continued each year since then. In 2008, the celebration spread cross country.

The idea is simple. Choose a poem you love during National Poetry Month, then carry it with you to share with co-workers, family, and friends. Need a source of poems for ideas?  See suggestions on our website.

For a fun way to play with poetry, try the game Exquisite Corpse. Exquisite Corpse is a collaborative poetry game that traces its roots to the Parisian Surrealist Movement. Exquisite Corpse is played by several people, each of whom writes a word on a sheet of paper, folds the paper to conceal it, and passes it on to the next player for his or her contribution.

In order to write a poem, participants should agree on a sentence structure beforehand. For example, each sentence in the poem could be structured "Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun." Articles and verb tenses may be added later or adjusted after the poem has been written. The game was also adapted to drawing, where one participant would draw the head of a figure, the next the torso, etc. The name "Exquisite Corpse" comes from a line of poetry created using the technique: "The exquisite corpse will drink the young wine."

The only hard and fast rule of Exquisite Corpse is that each participant is unaware of what the others have written, thus producing a surprising—sometimes absurd—yet often beautiful poem. Exquisite Corpse is a great way to collaborate with other poets, and to free oneself from imaginative constraints. Remember, many of the most effective phrases or metaphors are those that are most surprising. So get a couple of friends and try writing an exquisite corpse.

As an example, here is an Exquisite Corpse composed by the staff of the Academy of American Poets using the sentence construction Adjective, Noun, Verb, Adjective, Noun:

Slung trousers melt in a roseate box.
A broken calendar oscillates like sunny tin.
The craven linden growls swimmingly. Blowfish.
A glittering roof slaps at crazy ephemera.

Poetry can be grand, convoluted, mysterious, impenetrable, intimidating, a locked treasure box. But it doesn’t have to be. It can illuminate a moment with such clarity, thoughtfulness, and grace that we are caught off guard, surprised by delight, given a fresh perspective on the ordinary routine of daily existence. Put a poem in your pocket and share the pleasure with someone tomorrow.

78 RPM

In the back of the junkhouse
stacked on a cardtable covered
by a ragged bedspread, they rest,
black platters whose music once
crackled, hissed with a static
like shuffling feet, fox trot or two-step,
the slow dance of the needle
riding its merry-go-round,
my mother’s head nestled
on my father’s shoulder as they
turned, lost in the sway of sounds,
summer nights and faraway
places, the syncopation of time
waltzing them to a world
they never dreamed, dance
of then to the dust of now.

        --Jeff Daniel Marion


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