Yesterday was Poem in Your Pocket Day. I knew that I would hand out poems on campus. I knew that we would have poetry themed food. I wanted to do something to encourage the actual writing of poems, but I wasn't sure exactly what.
As I was looking at Facebook one last time, I came across Karen Weyant's posting of a Blackout Poetry Workshop at her school, Jamestown Community College. I thought it looked like something we could do.
So, I grabbed some art supplies and headed to school. I had my copies of poems for pockets already copied. I had decided on 2 poems by Mary Oliver: "Wild Geese" and "The Summer Day." I thought they were accessible and they had the potential of being very moving to students.
I stood in the main lobby of our campus and handed out the poems, along with a greeting telling students why I was handing them out. I told them we'd be doing poetry themed activities all day in the break room. Most of them said, "Thank you" when I handed them the poems. Most of them gave the poem a quick scan.
I suspect that the poetry themed events in the break room were more popular with faculty and staff than with students, but that's O.K.
Don't get me wrong--the students weren't dismissive or rude. They took the treats and read the poems:
I love this picture:
I had some great discussions with people about what poetry meant to them. And I sat at a table and created for a bit.
I had photocopied pages from 3 books: Natalie Angier's The Canon, Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and Craig Child's Apocalyptic Planet. I knew that those books had evocative language and interesting words. I didn't overthink the choosing--I just opened up the books and copied what was there.
I was intrigued by people's approaches to blackout poetry. Some people read the text. Some, like me, just chose words that sounded interesting and circled them. Some of us blocked the other words with color:
I was surprised by the poems that emerged. Here's mine, in picture (process note: I chose the words, drew blocks around them, and then did the swirling color; as I did the swirling color, the words started to get lost, so I came back and did more blocking):
and written out:
time in the ground
live in a cash economy
hillocks of bones
disappeared among the ruins
We hung our poems on the cabinet doors, along with the models that our registrar had chosen as models.
Throughout the day, people read our creations, but not as many people sat down to create as I had hoped.
That's O.K. I liked that we spent the day surrounded by poetry. My goal is to create an energy on campus so that school is a place where people want to be. Yesterday met that goal.