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The Poems in My Pocket

Today was Poem in Your Pocket Day. I didn’t know this existed, until a few days ago when I read about it in one of those general promotional/recurring-update emails from the Academy of American Poets. I like to participate in these obscure little traditions. So naturally, I was walking around with a bunch of poems in my pockets. Here, I’m disclosing all the poems I chose, and a little about why I chose them. I’ve added links in the title for all the poems.

Some of these I’ve just recently come across and some have stood the test of time. Some I first read about 5-6 years ago, when I initially started dabbling in poetry. Some are classics and some are so obscure they’re hard to find in their original prints anymore. I realized after this list that I’ve stayed mostly with the Eastern poets. Not that I haven’t read the Western ones, they were just hard to find copies of when I was frantically searching yesterday. I know I have a few Sylvia Plath and Adrienne Rich poems lying around somewhere here.

Oh well, here goes -

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front, by Wendell Berry

My reaction when I first read this was simply Woah, where has this been all my life? It’s a marvellous piece and one of the few poems I’ve ever read that reminded me of Howl.

Favorite lines:

Put your faith in the two inches of humus that will build under the trees every thousand years.

Be joyful though you have considered all the facts.

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

I read other works by Mary Oliver before I found this poem, and it has since become a gem for me. If I were to recommend a poem off the top of my head, it’s almost always been this one. There’s so much to learn in this.

Favorite lines:

Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination,

Also, Mary Oliver has the kind of voice that makes you warm on the inside. It’s even better listening to her read the poem -

Mary Oliver reads Wild Geese

Some Trees, by John Ashberry

This is a great wedding poem, which is actually where I came across it. I haven’t read a lot of his other stuff (Ashberry is quite prolific) but it’s one of the few poems that I like among all those that deal with landscape imagery.

Favorite lines:

…you and I 
Are suddenly what the trees try

To tell us we are: 
That their merely being there 
Means something; that soon 
We may touch, love, explain.

To Baudelaire, by Jeet Thayil

This is an old classic for me, one of which I will likely never tire.

Favorite lines:

I think of you - your big talk and wolf’s heart, your Bonaparte hair and eyes of Poe. I don’t miss you. I don’t miss you when I open a window and light fills the room like water pouring into a paper cup, or when I see a woman’s white dress shine like new coins and I know I could follow my feet to the river and let my life go away from me.

Two by Tishani Doshi

No one, and I mean no one in contemporary poetry, writes about the human emotions of love and grief better than Tishani Doshi. Every. Single. Poem. I’ve read of her has the potential to wrench your heart out, twist it around, put it back in place and STILL leave you feeling like you’ve grown by the end of it. I would highly recommend her book - Everything Begins Elsewhere. This particular piece deals with the sudden arrival of the narrators ex-boyfriend at her home.

Favorite lines:

Cutting Broccoli, by Tishani Doshi

Between this moment and the next there’s always space for a lover’s return, though you may no longer weep for him, or ache to lie down in the woods with him. … Would you say how you’ve been waiting for something to grow from the silence – nothing phenomenal – just cracks of light in the long doorways you’ve been walking through.

(pretty much this whole poem is one of my favorites.)

Love Poem, by Tishani Doshi

Ultimately, we will lose each other to something. I would hope for grand circumstance—death or disaster.

That’s a badass beginning for a piece titled Love Poem but that is actually supposed to be an anti-love poem :)

The Road, Eunice de Souza

People change but in the world we live in it seems to me that the young don’t get enough time to be young. Responsibilities and all aside, this poem also makes me think how we unfairly place upon others our own wants and desires from their lives but hardly ever take the time to inquire about their own. Adjusting into society and ‘womanhood’ has been a recurring theme for de Souza.

Favorite lines:

They said now she wears lipstick now she is a Bombay girl they said, your mother is lonely. Nobody said, even the young must live.

Implosions, by Adrienne Rich

Rich did for me what no other poet did. She made it into my wallet. For many years, I had a piece of paper in my wallet with a line scribbled rather hastily on it. The line was from one of her longer poems, one that I can’t quite recall anymore. But the quote struck me immediately then – maybe it had a lot to do with what I was going through at the time in my life – but it’s stood the test of time. The quote was: “There must be those among whom we can sit down and weep and still be counted as warriors.”

Favorite lines:

I wanted to choose words that even you would have to be changed by

Take the word of my pulse, loving and ordinary Send out your signals, hoist your dark scribbled flags but take my hand

Ghalib in the Winter of the Great Revolt, by Ranjit Hoskoté

Some lines, even when devoid of any context, are just haunting. This is one of them. (Couldn’t find link.) Favorite line:

Send paper, friend, these are the last pages of my journal I’m writing on.

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