Looking ahead to April, it’s National Poetry month, and to celebrate, the Academy of American Poets is sponsoring National Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 14, 2011. Basically, you carry a poem around in your pocket, and take it out and share it throughout your day with friends, colleagues, and family. The poem can be an old classic, a modern ode, long, short, silly, or serious — Anne Sexton or Dr. Seuss, Will Shakespeare or Shel Silverstein, Emily Dickinson or e.e. cummings… And if you can’t find a poem you’d like to share, write your own! But my point is, why limit the printed word to paper (or digital smart phone)?
Perhaps I’m taking this pocket thing too literally, but I do like to play with words and type — experimenting with the way the letters themselves can create fascinating visual patterns (even before we get anywhere near discussions of assonance, alliteration, and onomatopoeia!). A pocket square (or a hanky — just pop it in your purse!) is a more permanent way to commit to that poem. And, bonus: If you forget to take the poem out of your pocket before laundry day, you won’t end up with a pocket full of disintegrated, dried paper pulp.
-white or light-colored T-shirt
-rotary cutter, ruler, and cutting mat (or ruler, marker, and scissors)
-fabric paint (variety of colors)
-paint tray (optional)
-needle and thread (in a color to match the T-shirt)
1. Cut a 17″ x 17″ square (or smaller, depending on your preference) from one layer of the T-shirt. Tape the edges of the square to your painting surface with masking tape. (This will allow for a margin as well as keep the fabric straight while you’re painting it.) Choose a poem or stanza and arrange the letter stencils on the T-shirt square. And don’t forget to save room to credit your poet! Note: The paint will bleed through (as evidenced in the following photos!) — use a paint surface that you don’t mind making permanently colorful!
2. Select your paint colors. I chose to use a different color for each line of the poem to highlight the original line breaks. (P.S. Can you guess the poem, Wheel of Fortune-style, based on the letters placed above?)
3. Use the sponge brush to dab the paint over the stencil one letter at a time. Note: Some of the letters will need to be moved as you go, to ensure even spacing and to account for repeated letters.
4. Continue painting, changing colors as needed, until the square is filled and/or your stanza or poem is complete. (P.S. Yes, it’s Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky.”)
5. Remove all the letters and peel off the masking tape to release the T-shirt square. Let the paint dry completely. (Don’t forget to wash your fingers if you, like me, inadvertently gave yourself a rather colorful but clumpy-looking manicure!)
6. Thread the needle, knot the end and carefully turn the edges under twice. Use a slip stitch to sew the edges in place around the perimeter of the T-shirt square.
8. …learn to fold (and unfold and fold and unfold–and read–and fold again) your poetic pocket square! So, is that a poem in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?
-Use fabric markers in lieu of paint and stencils to fit more text (and/or more stanzas) on the square.
-If poetry’s not your thing, paint or print a quotation that inspires you!