“Put a poem in your pocket,” Worcester!

By John Monfredo, Worcester School Committee member

We live in a society of doubters, a society in which so many thrive on the negative. Listen to the news or read the newspaper: the majority of stories are about despair. So when two fourth grade students wrote to me last spring from Mrs. Quitadamo’s class at Nelson Place about supporting their initiative to have “Poem in Your Pocket Day” in Worcester I was thrilled to hear about the class’ idea. More important, it was wonderful to have students articulate their ideas in writing.

Callista Pacheco, one of the students, stated in her letter: “My fourth grade class celebrated “Put a Poem in Your Pocket Day” in a very festive way. We made our own paper pockets and shared them with three other classes. We also gave them their own poems for their pockets.” She went on to say the idea originated in New York City and the “Mayor does it too.”

The second student, Rachel Amankwah, was set on what her plans were, for she wants to make it a national celebration and gave three idea that everyone can embrace: “First, you can share poems with your family and friends, next you can tell others about this special day, and finally you can make one of your own poems and share it with a lot of different people.” Both students asked that we consider having all of the Worcester Public School students celebrate this special day.

Wow! A positive and refreshing idea not tied into a test, but an idea that’s school-related and fun! I immediately filed an agenda item for our school committee so the committee could consider the idea for the entire system. The item went to the standing committee on curriculum development, and I suggested two motions. The first motion was to have schools consider celebrating “Put a Poem in your Pocket Day” on April 16, and the second motion asked that our Mayor and our School Superintendent start our meeting off with a poem. Rachel and Callista, we may not get the entire school body buying into the idea, but it’s a start, and all of this will take place because of the idea coming from Mrs. Quitadamo’s class. As you can see, there is power in words.

April is National Poetry Month, and seven years ago the city of New York set aside a day to celebrate “Put a Poem in your Pocket Day.” Each year, city parks, bookstores, workplaces and other venues came to life with open readings of poems from pockets. Even the mayor gets in on the festivities, reading a poem on the radio. Since then, the idea has gone national. We will be celebrating the second National Poem in Your Pocket event.

Last year, the Library of Congress organized a lunch reading of poems from pockets, live and via the web. Visitors with a published poem in their pocket received a 20% discount at the Library of Congress sales shop.

In West Chester, Pennsylvania, according to Lois Markiewicz, a middle school teacher, “Our first annual Poem In Your Pocket Day saw paper pockets on windows and bulletin boards with copies for people to take … I wore as many pockets as I could and had a different poem in each one.”
In the western part of the country, Tucson, Arizona, bookstores gave customers 10% off when they observed Poem in Your Pocket Day.

Now, why can’t our state get into the mix? Perhaps Worcester could lead the way.
For those schools that are looking for starter ideas, please consider the following:

• Invite a business leader or elected official to read a poem to the class.
• Start the day with a read-aloud of a poem on the school PA system.
• Each class can begin their reading/writing workshop with a poem.
• Have favorite poems with your classes.
• Each class can create a collection of books of poetry and place it in a prominent place in the classroom.
• Have students choose a metaphor or smiles to describe their feelings about poetry. Have them write a poem using these feelings.

If our readers like the idea and need a diversion, why not consider participating? Select a poem or compose an original work and carry it with you in your pocket all day, sharing the poem and the fun of the day wherever you go.
Send the poem to InCity Times and tell us why you like it! W e’ll publish it, along with your comments.

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