We celebrate poetry hard-core every single day of April. April is National Poetry Month, of course. Then one day in April, we get to carry around a poem in a pocket. Get ready to celebrate Poem In Your Pocket Day!
Yes, poets love alliteration, hence, pocket poem.
The Academy of American Poets chooses one day every April for hash-tagging your heart out with #pocketpoem. During the extravaganza (on April 30th this year), you choose a poem, fold it up, and put it in your pocket (make sure you are wearing something that has pockets; otherwise, what’s the point, right?). Then you carry it around with you all day. You can share it with others. You can keep it to yourself. It’s up to you how you wish to celebrate your pocketed poem.
While folding paper is pretty simple, here are a few super short poems that won’t take much folding to become pocket-sized.
Langston Hughes’s “Mellow”
I love this poem because it’s got vivid imagery full of tension and subtle rhyme that ties it all together. It’s eight lines packed with commentary on race and dating.
Emily Dickinson’s “I had no time to hate, because”
One of Dickinson’s more uplifting poems, the two quatrains do mention the grave and death. However, they express how the “toil of love” is worth the time we have while we’re on this earth.
Basho’s Frog Haiku
Haiku is short by definition. That 5-7-5 pattern offers snippets of moments, usually about nature. The skill is nuanced, building on each image that leads to a final impact in only three lines. I usually am not a fan of amphibian-related anything, but there’s something about this haiku about a frog that makes me smile every time. (The link offers 50 haiku; the frog one is three down).
Anaïs Nin’s “Risk”
Another 8-line poem, “Risk” is all metaphor from beginning to end. It compares risk to a plant. My description makes it sound terribly unpoetic. There’s alliteration of “bud” and “blossom” and “tight” and “took.” It’s all one enjambed thought that pushes you forward to the end without a pause.
Gelett Burgess’s “The Purple Cow”
This one is for the kids! Okay, but also, this one is for the adults! There’s such a whimsical simplicity to it. It encourages imagination. It’s completely memorizeable (I made up that word, I think). The poem is only four lines, and they all rhyme at the end. And, it’s about a purple cow.
Joy Harjo’s “My House is the Red Earth”
Here’s a prose poem. The lines are long from margin to margin, so the poem is wider than it is long, and that still gives it the sense of being a short poem. The poem compares a simple home to the bright, loud, flashy, big cities that grab everyone’s attention. From this vision, the poem moves to words and sound. Then it ends with laughter.
Mary Ruefle’s “Sent to the Monk”
This poem seems to be about the past, a recent past and then an “ancient” one. It’s about memories, intimacy, and the dark. Personification, metaphor, and similes are jam-packed into these little ten lines. It makes me sad, but I still like it.
I’m pretty sure there’s an unwritten rule for whenever anyone talks about short poems, we need to at least mention “In a Station of the Metro” by Ezra Pound. So here it is—I’m mentioning it. It’s two lines and a whollop of a poem. For more untangling about what makes it a poem, you can go here.
Need more short poems? You can check out these 45 Short Poems to Sneak More Poetry Into Your Life compiled by Rioter Dana Staves.
Also, the Book Riot Poetry Archive is always at your service for all things bookish poetry.