Saturday, April 25, 2009


Letras Latinas Blog would like to get in on some NaPoMo fun with the following invitation, taking its cue from the Academy of American Poets, who have designated April 30, 2009 as:

Poem in Your Pocket Day:

Between now and April 30 choose a poem, any poem, by a Latino or Latina poet---one that is perhaps not too long and lends itself to being read in a brief stretch of time---say twenty five lines or less, or a poem that doesn't occupy more than one page in a published book. Once you've identified your poem, here are some suggested steps and things to think about:

Step one (two options):

1. Type the poem out and print it.
2. Photocopy the page of the book you're taking the poem from.

[Option 1 comes from a workshop I took as an undergraduate at UC Berkeley with Robert Pinksy in which during the course of the semester we were required to type out an anthology of our favorite poems that was at least around forty pages long. It was one of the most useful exercises I've done, ever].

Step two:

Practice reading the poem out loud to yourself in preparation for April 30, but refrain from reading it to anyone, live....until April 30.

Step three:

Look ahead and think about where you're going to be on April 30, and where that day's itinerary and routine is going to take you. Start brainstorming possible scenarios...

Step four:

Starting thinking about how many times you might want to read your poem aloud that day, and to whom, from where, and in what circumstances.

Will you read it to someone you know? If so, will it be to someone who already reads and listens to poetry on a regular basis, or perhaps someone you know who has very little, if any, experience with poetry. I'm thinking the latter scenario would be more interesting.

Will you take a chance and stop a stranger in a public space and read it to him or her? Or perhaps corral more than one stranger for an impromtu poetry reading of one poem? If you decide to incorporate this option, what space will you do this in: on a subway, on the sidewalk, in the post office while you're waiting in line to buy stamps, etc?

I know for myself, I'm going to attempt to do a combination of the above.

Step Five:

April 30 arrives: fold the poem, put it in your pocket, and walk out the front sure you take the poem out of your pocket, unfold it, read it aloud to another human being at least once, perhaps twice, perhaps three, perhaps four times that day. It's up to you.

Step Six (optional)

Consider making photocopies of your poem (making sure that the title, author and source of the poem are included) so that: after you read the poem, you can give it to the person you just read it to, and he or she can carry it in their pocket the rest of their day and, who knows, read it to someone else, in turn...

Step Seven (concurrent with Step Five):

Take mental notes, or keep them as best you can so that: at the end of the day, you can write up a little something (500 words, more, less?) to report your findings:

Which poem did you read (title, author)?

Who did you read it to, and where?

What kind of response did this gentle gesture of guerilla poetry reading elicit from your audience of one or two or three or more? Did anyone thank you, curse you?

How did you feel each time you read the poem? Did it get easier as the day progressed?

Step Eight:

Post your report on your blog and let me know so I can link it. Or: consider sending your report to me to post here at LETRAS LATINAS BLOG as a guest post.

Finally, these are meant to be loose guidelines and suggestions only. Letras Latinas Blog is asking you to read a poem by a Latino or Latina poet in order to help carry out its mission. The only thing I would gently discourage is reading one of your own poems. Give the gift of someone else's literary art that day.

Choose a poem, join in.


* said...

Francisco, I love this idea. My poetry workshop is currently doing a six week "Guerilla Poetry" exercise, and I'm going to incorporate Poem in Your Pocket.

On another note, I've always had my beginning poetry course students create their personal poetry anthologies as part of their reading; in many of the evaluations, this often gets lambasted by said students as "a waste of time" "junior high busy-work" and less polite comments. It's so easy to lose faith - thanks for reminding me what a valuable exercise that is!

Francisco Aragón said...

Hi Deborah. Nice to hear from you. Please let me know how it goes with your students. Thank you for leaving the comment.

Will you be in San Antonio this summer? Would be nice to see you.


anisa said...

"...we were required to type out an anthology of our favorite poems that was at least around forty pages long. It was one of the most useful exercises I've done, ever."

I like this, as I collect poems I like and leave them all over the place... folded in books, on shelves etc... But I'm curious, is it important that one do the actual retyping of the poem, or do xeroxed copies work as well? Can you elaborate on why you found this exercise so useful?

Deborah Miranda said...

Francisco - Yes, I'll be there! and if we get enough interested folks, Ire'ne and I will be teaching a poetry writing workshop. Gonna make books, too. A nice break after finishing up the "Bad Indians" manuscript, which has been grueling. See you there!

Linda Rodriguez said...

Great idea, Francisco! I think I'll try it with one of the terrific poems in The Wind Shifts.

I also love the idea of typing out your personal poetry anthology. I may suggest this to the Latino Writers Collective.

Hasta Poem-In-Your-Pocket Day,


Francisco Aragón said...

Hi anisa:

Regarding the typing: One of the ideas Pinsky likes to dwell on is the relationship between poetry and the body. His Favorite Poem project is rooted in the belief that the poem is not a fully realized work of art until it has passed through the body---uttered aloud---by someone other than the other. When he'd give the typing-out-your-anthology assignment, he would underscore that, in his view, the physical activity of having to type out the poem---accounting for every syllable, every space, every line break, every stanza break---forces one to notice how the poem is constructed. He would also encourage students to take a poem we like (one that's written in lines) and type it out as a piece of prose and then as a poem in verse. And then to read both pieces of language aloud to notice the difference---the different ways both texts move through the body, depending on how they are deployed on the page. In a nutshell: typing out the poem is another way of noticing how the poems is made. Doing this forty or more times, over the course of the semester, was instuctional.