Breanna Mekuly shares Poem in Your Pocket experience

To celebrate National Poem in Your Pocket Day on Thursday, April 26, the Writing Studio, a collective of women writers and literary advocates, organized a distribution of poems in Erie County Public Library and Erie businesses. Volunteers also handed out poems in downtown Erie over the noon hour

One of the volunteers, Breanna Mekuly, shares her experience:

I joined the Erie County Poet Laureate, Marisa Moks-Unger, and Sister Anne McCarthy in handing out poems in the Perry Square Park area in downtown Erie on Thursday, April 26, National Poem in Your Pocket Day. The three of us entered restaurants in the area, the County Courthouse and distributed poems in the Gannon University area.

I quickly learned gender plays no role in determining who appreciates poetry

In the Thai restaurant downtown, there were almost solely men eating. The waitress noted this: “you can try to hand them out but we only have men in here right now.” That didn’t matter. The men were just as interested in receiving poems as any of the women we met in other places. At one table, Marisa handed out poems to four men and about a minute later, I turned to see one of the men had stopped eating as he was engrossed in reading the poem at the table while the other men kept talking. 

The guards on duty at the courthouse yesterday were what I would call stereotypical macho-manly looking and acting: tough, strict, big muscles and tattoos. Yet when we walked in with our poems and posters, they delicately handled the posters as we went through security and then each one gratefully and almost excitedly accepted a poem. 

We ran into a few college-aged men on the streets - most with headphones in, seemingly trying to exist only in their own space and not enter that of anyone else on the street. But when the men saw our signs, I could tell they were curious. And as soon as Marisa or Anne went up to the individual men, they took off their headphones and each one (there were maybe three or four I saw this happen with) took the poem, smiled, and seemed delighted that someone would stop them, burst their little individual bubble, and give them something. 

Dave’s Diner was full - every table was occupied. When we first came in, people looked at us strange and we could tell they were unsure of what we were doing. When we started walking around, sharing poems and talking about Poem in Your Pocket day in Erie, I noticed that people at other tables started watching us and anxiously awaiting their own poems. Many people opened their poems before we even left their table. 

in one of the restaurants, someone recognized Marisa as she was handing out poems: “Hey,” the woman said, “Aren’t you reading your poems at the courthouse tomorrow? I think I saw a poster there advertising that you’re coming!” Someone else asked Marisa: “Is this one of your poems?” 

One woman got out of her car and asked if she could take a picture of us handing out poems with the sign so she could post it on facebook and share it with her friends. 

To top the day off I went out for a drink in the evening with a friend and we saw one of the “Poem in Your Pocket” posters. She said - “Hey, I got a poem earlier this morning! I remember seeing a sign that looked like that, too. I think it was at Mercyhurst… no, wait, it was at the coffee shop Ember & Forge.” I was proud to tell her and the waitress, too, that I had made all the signs. I have all kinds of ideas on how we can expand next year’s Poem in Your Pocket Day.


Poem In Your Pocket Day at Springhill Retirement Community

Our weekly newsletter, The Signal, announced Poem in Your Pocket Day, so the active residents at Springhill were ready and waiting for their poems.  Some residents who dined together shared poems at dinner.  Especially rewarding was our visit to Forestview, the nursing home.  Many are in wheelchairs, sometimes in the community room, but some alone in their rooms.  Most were surprised and delighted to receive this attention.  If they could not read their poem themselves, an aide read the poem for them--and then asked for a poem for herself!  We placed leftover poems on the bar in the dining room, and the basket was empty at the end of the day.  

The Writing Studio is part of The Studio at Saint Mary’s: Space to Create, where studio space is available for artists and innovative programs that can positively impact center-city Erie. For more information, contact Holly Nowak.