This fall, my mother introduced me to the Wednesday Poem. Every Wednesday since 1998, my mother’s friend Elizabeth Salper has been sending out poems to a gradually larger group of people – so large, in fact, that she started a blog dedicated the Wednesday Poem. Between now and my first Wednesday, last November 25, I have received twenty three poems. Some I liked, some I didn’t, but I read each one faithfully.
With every cup of tea we shared, the broken lines of these regular visitors took hold of me and gradually added to my love of poetry. Through them, I discovered that sometimes a poem can unravel your mind, just as Katie describes in her post on Jack Johnson’s songs. Their words are quieter, more discreet than songs but are more present for me. They ask for my full attention, not willing to blend into the background of my everyday activities.
Last Friday, I decided to help share what has been shared with me. Armed with nine poems in my pocket, I entered school prepared to spread the word about Poem In Your Pocket Day, part of National Poetry Month. The night before, instead of doing my homework, I had carefully selected some of my old and new favourites for a few of my teachers and friends. Here is the list:
Mr. Sliziak – Dusting, Marilyn Nelson
Mr. Jackson – Why Latin Should Still Be Taught in School, Christopher Bursk
Ms. Mulder – Crossings, Ravi Shankar
Kiko – Small Talk, Eleanor Lerman
Kate – Sea Canes, Derek Walcott
Katie – Alice at Seventeen: Like a Blind Child, Darcy Cummings
Clare – First Fig, Edna St. Vincent Millay
Louise – Eating Poetry, Mark Strand
Andrea – Mushrooms, Sylvia Plath
I got more excited every time I handed out a poem. In each of them I found something of myself and, as they left my hand, I found myself holding my breath, hoping that my recipients would find the same home between those printed letters.
By the end of lunch, I had no poems left. I entered my third period class a little disappointed. Watching corners of bent paper inching their way out of my friends’ jeans, I felt the emptiness of my own pocket tangibly.
“Ariana!” my science teacher called me over. She handed me an inconspicuous sheet of plain printer paper. “Mr. Sliziak dropped this over for you.” I turned it over to find a poem sitting there, waiting. The Meaning of Existence by Les Murray. Three days later, it is still in my pocket.