Today is the 8th annual Poem in Your Pocket Day, and I promise this year to refrain from any “or are you just glad to see me” business. What started out as a New York City affair has spread around the country, with schools and libraries all over sponsoring activities and bloggers everywhere calling for pocket-sized poems and poem-sized pockets. Not to be outdone, of course, New York is celebrating PIYP Day (now I see why they didn’t call it “Poem in My Pocket Day”) with a Twitter Poetry contest curated by Mayor Mike Bloomberg himself — tweet your 140-character poem to @NYCMayorsOffice.
For my pocket poem, I’m resurrecting one that I actually carried around with me for a long time. Back in 1991, the New Yorker printed an Annals of Poetry article, Elizabeth Bishop and Brazil, which included some fragments that hadn’t been published elsewhere. One of them just struck me on a number of levels, in that way poetry can—viscerally, intellectually, as an aesthetic ideal, as a small prayer for something I wanted from life—so I cut it out and put it in my wallet. It lasted for a couple of years, grew soft and frayed around the edges, and every once in a while I’d take it out to reread. Eventually the tiny scrap fell out while I was paying for groceries or hunting for my bank card, and for a while that was it; it was gone. This was before the New Yorker was digitized or FSG published the lovely Elizabeth Bishop collection Edgar Allan Poe and the Jukebox: Uncollected Poems, Drafts, and Fragments. Both of those came my way around the same time, and I got my poem back. So for Poem in Your Pocket Day, and because my aesthetics and wishes haven’t changed all that much over the past couple of decades, I’m carrying it with me all day, once again.