What’s in Your Pocket?


Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day. I encouraged my students to carry poems in their pockets and share them with the class today. This is how the initial instruction went down:

Student: What if the poem is on my phone?

Me: Will the poem on your phone be in your pocket?

Student: It will be in my bra. I carry my phone in my bra.

Me. That would only work if it were Poem in Your Bra Day.

But they managed to bring poems which ranged from messy rooms to conquering depression; Maya Angelou to Froggy Fresh; poems focusing on social justice issues (how pornography degrades women) to career choices (Coast Guard). We sat in a circle for almost 90 minutes reading poems and indirectly pondering life. It was a good day.

Were my students learning a technical skill to use in their career? No.

Were my students engaging in an activity to help them score higher on a standardized test? Probably not.

What were my students learning exactly? We were learning how to get in touch with our souls and how to be human – sometimes called the humanities. The humanities are important because engineers need to use skills to help people in developing countries. The humanities are important because health care professionals need to have compassion for their patients. The humanities are important because scientists need to use research for the good of humanity and have an ethical understanding of what that entails. The humanities are important because we are not teaching just content but character. The humanities are important.

Math and science are paving the career path for many students, and I have no doubt that we will be a better nation because of this. However, the humanities are just as important. Take some time to read a poem, paint a picture, or listen to a song and get in touch with your soul a little more. Even if it isn’t Poem in Your Pocket or Bra Day.

If you’re still reading, here’s the poem in my pocket:

“The World is Too Much with Us” – Wordsworth

The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;—
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon;
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers;
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.
or here’s another one (confession – I carried three poems today):
“maggie and milly and molly and may” – e. e. cummings
maggie and milly and molly and may
went down to the beach(to play one day)and maggie discovered a shell that sang
so sweetly she couldn’t remember her troubles,and

milly befriended a stranded star
whose rays five languid fingers were;

and molly was chased by a horrible thing
which raced sideways while blowing bubbles:and

may came home with a smooth round stone
as small as a world and as large as alone.

For whatever we lose(like a you or a me)
it’s always ourselves we find in the sea

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