We celebrate the following days in our home:
September 29th – National Coffee Day – Barber Mom
July 4th – National Independence Day – Barber Dad (the traditionalist of the family)
August 26th – National Dog Day – Barber Kid 1
April 30th – International Jazz Day – Barber Kid 2
January 3rd – National Drinking Straw Day – Barber Kid 3
March 14th – National Nap Day – Barber Dog
Today, however, is National Poem in Your Pocket Day. I love this day because you are forced to reflect and consider what one poem you will carry. My students carry poems their pockets with them and share in class over coffee (because everyday is National Coffee Day for me).
Here is my poem this year and why I chose it (hang with me, non-poetry people). Read and consider:
“Theme for English B” Langston Hughes (1951)
The instructor said,
Go home and write
a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you—
Then, it will be true.
I wonder if it’s that simple?
I am twenty-two, colored, born in Winston-Salem.
I went to school there, then Durham, then here
to this college on the hill above Harlem.
I am the only colored student in my class.
The steps from the hill lead down into Harlem
through a park, then I cross St. Nicholas,
Eighth Avenue, Seventh, and I come to the Y,
the Harlem Branch Y, where I take the elevator
up to my room, sit down, and write this page:
It’s not easy to know what is true for you or me
at twenty-two, my age. But I guess I’m what
I feel and see and hear, Harlem, I hear you:
hear you, hear me—we two—you, me, talk on this page.
(I hear New York too.) Me—who?
Well, I like to eat, sleep, drink, and be in love.
I like to work, read, learn, and understand life.
I like a pipe for a Christmas present,
or records—Bessie, bop, or Bach.
I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like
the same things other folks like who are other races.
So will my page be colored that I write?
Being me, it will not be white.
But it will be
a part of you, instructor.
You are white—
yet a part of me, as I am a part of you.
Sometimes perhaps you don’t want to be a part of me.
Nor do I often want to be a part of you.
But we are, that’s true!
As I learn from you,
I guess you learn from me—
although you’re older—and white—
and somewhat more free.
This is my page for English B.
There are so many things about this poem that I love. The structure is brilliant: a professor speaking in a very structured verse, the persona’s thoughts detailing his background, and finally the beautifully-written, free-flowing essay contrasting the structured assignment.
This poem, however, sends a message not only relevant when it was written but resonates true for today’s society as well: consider others’ point of view. We can do this in several different ways:
Spend time with someone different from you
Read works outside of your preferred genre
Ask someone to tell you their story
Don’t get all of your news from only one source
Take time to think about situations from someone else’s perspective before jumping to conclusions
So Happy National Poem in Your Pocket Day 2016; this is the poem I will be sharing with my students this year. If you missed National Poem in Your Pocket Day, April is National Poetry Month, so share a poem over family dinner, with a coworker, or enjoy in solitude and silence.
What one poem would you choose to share?