Poem in Your Pocket Day 2019

Members of The Women's Writing Studio helped local businesses distribute poems.

A dozen or so residents at the assisted living center came together to play bingo with Erie Benedictine Sister Carol Ann McLaughlin and her dog, Rusty, just like they do every week. But this week she had a surprise. “It’s poem in your pocket day,” she told them and proceeded to hand each person a specially rolled poem. The residents opened their poem and read them aloud. Then they began to talk about the poems they remembered from their youth. One of them said, “I don’t remember what I ate for breakfast, but I do remember this poem that I memorized…” and then recited it aloud. Others followed with memorized poems of their own. “We never got to playing bingo,” Sister Carol Ann reported, “instead we spent the entire time reciting and talking about poetry. It was so meaningful to the group.”

The scene in the nursing home was one of many shared during Poem In Your Pocket Day when over 2,000 poems were distributed around the city of Erie by members of the Women’s Writing Studio, organizers of the local event,

Over 12 businesses and non-profits participated in the day, two of the largest being Saint Vincent Hospital and Kraus Department Store, both distributing over 400 poems. “Because there was a sign in the Kraus door announcing the poem giveaway, people were asking for one the day before,” reported Sister Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski. “The clerks and the customers were so enthused all day long, opening poems and reading them aloud.”

Breanna Mekuly was one of a handful of volunteers who distributed poems in downtown Erie over the lunch hour. “When we went into City Hall a woman opened her poem and exclaimed, ‘Isn’t this perfect. It’s about lighting a candle in memory of your father—and my father just died recently,’” said Breanna. 

Sister Mary Lou Kownacki who was also handing out poems on State Street reported that one gentleman took a poem and said, “Ah, poetry, it’s so dear to me. When I was young, my dad used to give us a poem allowance. He had a list of poems and we got money for every poem we memorized. The older we got, the longer the poem. I still remember many of them. Want to hear?”

Participating in the Erie event were: Local coffee shops (Embers & Forge, Brew Ha Ha, Tipsy Bean), the Erie County Public Library, some local businesses and non-profits (Kraus Department Store, Pressed Bookstore, Emmaus Soup Kitchen, St. Benedict Child Development Center), St. Vincent Hospital and assisted living centers (St. Mary’s East, Brevillier Village, Springhill Senior Living) are all distributing poems throughout the day to patrons, residents and staff.

Poem in Your Pocket Day began in New York City in 2002, and in 2008 the Academy of American Poets took it nationwide by making it a major event during National Poetry Month in April. “This is the fourth year Erie is participating and we are pleased that more businesses and organizations want to share poems,” said Sister Mary Lou Kownacki, coordinator of The Writing Studio. Members of the Women’s Writing Studio who helped organize the day were Margarita Dangel, Erin Carey, Stephanie Ciner, Breanna Mekuly, Jacqueline Small, Marjorie Podolsky and Benedictine Sisters Carolyn Gorny-Kopkowski, Val Luckey, Linda Romey, Marcy Hall, and Mary Ellen Plumb.

Click an image for enlarged slide show.

Jodi at St. Vincent HospitalLeroy at St. Vincent HospitalPressed Cafe and BooksLuanne at Kraus Department StoreKraus Department StoreKraus Department StoreKraus Department StoreKraus Department StoreKraus Department StoreBreanna and Stpehanie share poems downtownDisplay of poemsMembers of The Women's Writing Studio, with help of volunteers, rolled 2000 poems

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.