National English Honors Society celebrates Poem in Your Pocket Day

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Cindy Phung

Greeting students with a poem and a smile, junior Nicole Imral hands out one of many pocket-sized poems in her stack. Spread out near the school entrances, Imral and several other National English Honors Society (NEHS) members informed students and staff about the day and handed out poems. “I love poetry. I was excited about [Poem in Your Pocket Day] because it’s fun to read a bunch of different poems you’ve never read before, especially short ones because it’s easier to get through them,” Imral said.

As the morning rush of students flooded the school entrances, each person was greeted with a poem printed on a brightly colored slip of paper. On Thursday, April 28, Poem in Your Pocket Day was celebrated for the first time. Each handpicked poem was neatly cut out and could become special to someone.

National English Honors Society (NEHS) sponsors and English teachers Andria Benmuvhar and Diana Lurkins started planning for the occasion at the beginning of April. The Academy of American Poets, a national organization promoting poetry, and the Gateway Writing Project, a St. Louis-based English writing group, posted ideas on ways to participate, which inspired NEHS. NEHS has attempted to celebrate Poem in Your Pocket Day in the past, but COVID-19 limited their celebrations. 

“Walking into the school, it was exciting to see the NEHS students vocally celebrating poetry, sharing it with people, and excited for people to experience that written medium,” English teacher Dan Barnes said.

Sponsor of National English Honors Society (NEHS) English teacher Andria Benmuvhar participates in Poem in Your Pocket Day by carrying poems in her phone. Her all-time favorite poem is “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” by T.S. Eliot, but it was too long to keep in her pocket. “Poetry taps into humanity in a way that no other writing can. It’s beautiful and meaningful at the same time, like any piece of artwork that you look at, you can go to an art museum and stand and look at a painting for hours and hours. I can look at a poem for a really long time and get something different out of it every time,” Benmuvhar said. (Cindy Phung)

NEHS member junior Nicole Imral participated before school and helped spread awareness about the day to her peers. 

“[Poem in Your Pocket Day] can expose a lot of people [to poems] who otherwise might not really like poetry or are not interested. It can [also] spark interest and [inspire] them to go out and search up their own poems or even try to write poetry themselves,” Imral said.

While Poem in Your Pocket Day is a celebration of poetry, Benmuvhar and Lurkins hope for the day to ease any fear or hesitation students may have towards poetry. 

“The poetry I teach in my class is a form that requires readers to bring in more context than something like ‘The Hunger Games,’ so it is inherently more difficult. That’s because students have to be able to try and put themselves into the poem a little bit, whereas something like ‘The Hunger Games’ will just feed you everything,” Barnes said.

Next year, Benmuvhar plans to have more coordination amongst the English teachers to incorporate time for Poem in Your Pocket Day and encourage students to read the poems they’ve received. In addition, Benmuvhar aims for NEHS members to select a wider variety of poems.

“People misunderstand poetry and see it as something that’s super intimidating and can only be read in an English class, when [actually] poetry is really beautiful if you let it speak to you. Sometimes, it might just be a line that resonates with you, but that’s all you need,” Benmuvhar said. “There’s a poem out there for everyone, don’t give up and hate on poetry your entire life just because you haven’t found it.”