Another poetry month has rolled around, prompting the ever-present question: how can we get poetry into the hands of the people who need it most? “Bread in the pockets of the hungry,” as Mary Oliver put it, poems are as essential to our welfare as breathing. In chatting about this with Yak Press poet Brian Sonia-Wallace, who makes his living putting poems into the pockets of the hungry every day, the topic turned quickly to ideas of “guerilla” poetry activities. “Ever heard of yarn bombing?” I wondered, aloud, “We could try poem bombing.” I recalled a story I’d heard of a woman who printed up poems on slips of paper and stuffed them into the pockets of all the garments in a thrift store, for example. Then, there was the person who made up flyers, sort of like the kind you’d use to advertise a lost pet, (“Seen this poem?”) and plastered every lamp post, bus bench, and shop window within a ten-block radius.
We quickly realized, however, that since Brian plans to write poems from the steps of L.A. City Hall to share with passersby, the term poem “bombing” might not be the best choice of words. That it could warrant undesirable attention from the mayor’s security detail. That the NSA might not be too keen on the concept. Literary terrorists? Bad-ass, yes, but unlikely to secure arts funding.
But, the Academy of American Poets has already come up with another “guerilla” way to share poems: Poem in Your Pocket day, which happens Thursday, April 21 this year. The idea is to carry a poem in your pocket all day, and to share it randomly with whomever you encounter. Say, the cashier at the grocery store. Or, the person pumping gas next to you. Or your teachers. Or students. Anyone who’s hungry.
For more “bread” for the “pockets of the hungry,” check out our poetry catalog.