This A-to-Z challenge has had us wandering the alphabet and today we’re at the end. We’ve still got a bit of ground to cover though, so let’s begin…
Z is for zarf
Zarf is an ornamental container designed to hold a coffee cup and insulate it from the hand of the drinker. It’s a Turkish word from Arabic, and the etymology indicates it also means envelope.
This definition is key, because it segues nicely into what else I want to talk about today. Today is Poem in Your Pocket Day, the annual celebration in the United States that brings National Poetry Month to a sweet end. People are encouraged to carry a poem in their pocket and share it with others throughout the day.
I’m stretching the definition of pocket to mean envelope, because in fact I’m keeping the poems I’m carrying today in an envelope.
I try to be careful when quoting poems here on my blog to use only short excerpts or only those that are in the public domain, so as to respect the rights of poets. It feels like such unsteady ground though because I love poetry so much and I want everyone in the world to be reading it. Not just because I think poetry is beautiful and profound and sometimes funny or heart-breaking or all the myriad of things it is; but because I think poetry teaches us to be in touch with the language of our hearts, what makes us human, what connects us all. I thoroughly agree with what poet Mark Strand has to say:
” If every head of state and every government official spent an hour a day reading poetry we’d live in a much more humane and decent world … Poetry delivers an inner life that is articulated to the reader. People have inner lives, but they are poorly expressed and rarely known. They have no language by which to bring it out into the open. Two people deeply in love can look at each other and not have much to say except “I love you.” It gets kind of boring after awhile—after the first ten or twenty years … When we read poems from the past we realize that human beings have always been the way we are. We have technological advancements undreamt of a couple thousand years ago, but the way people felt then is pretty much the way people feel now. We can read those poems with pleasure because we recognize ourselves in them. Poetry helps us imagine what it’s like to be human. I wish more politicians and heads of state would begin to imagine what it’s like to be human.”
The other day I blogged a bit about the beauty of strangers showing kindness. I have other examples of that to share that relate directly to the poems I’m carrying in my pocket today.
Last year right before my birthday I came across a poem that so touched my soul, I knew I wanted to use it as a touchstone all year long. I wrote to the poet Jena Strong (now Schwartz) and asked permission to post the poem on my blog and she graciously agreed. I am so grateful to her. Her poem has felt like a year-long blessing to me, and I invite you to read my original post containing the poem here.
The second poem I’m carrying and sharing today is a prose poem written by the late Morton Marcus. It may well be my favorite poem of all time. I wish I could get everyone to read it, and in my small attempt to do so, I wrote Mr. Marcus and asked his permission to post it to my blog. And with a generosity of heart and that beautiful kindness of strangers he graciously agreed. My heart still wears the imprint of that kindness. I invite you to read the original post containing the poem here.
I think our beloved Fool would approve of the liberties I’ve taken today, moving from zarf, to envelope, to pocket, to poems. And just like this month’s trip through the alphabet, I hope you’ve enjoyed it.
What about you? Are you celebrating Poem in Your Pocket Day? Have a favorite poem? Ever used a zarf? Do tell – you know I love to hear.