Poetry Thursday: Guerilla Action

This week's Poetry Thursday was to undertake some kind of poetry guerilla action. Here is what I did:

The Cut-Out

I decided to print my poem from last week's exercise (see below), print it on the Poetry Thursday template supplied by Dana, printed off 100 copies, and cut them out in handy 3" X 5" sizes. Oh, I recycled all the scrap paper.

Planting Lettuces in the Dark, October 1962

Beneath the waning gibbous moon, next to the bunker
her husband back-hoed, cinder-blocked, concreted,
my mother is planting lettuces in the dark, a red Sedonan
release of heat softening the ground, before the monsoon
desert season. Everything can grow. Even these
special-ordered seeds of exotics, Limestone, Lollo Biono,
Rouge d’Hiver, Paris Island Cos, Sabine, Bronze Leaf, Mission,
and Little Gem, names that could be places
in California or Florida or Arcadia, where the most
tender-leafed romaine could be coaxed from the soil
by native rains. Through her own birthing and mothering
years, she thought of this salt-packed scape of land
whenever she thought the world was vile, her word
which she also released in an exhale of cigarette
smoke, a word that spelled EVIL as readily as LIVE,
a word so perfectly reconciled to this desert,
so perfectly a coyote at the edge of the moon-shadowed
arroyos. Even the moon-dimmed sky with its oceans
of stars seems so poorly fed that the lettuces must be planted
in this darkness, for new words, new bitter and sharp and
green flavors, lined in 60-foot rows, to break earth and unfurl.

* * * * *

The poem appeared with the Poetry Thursday logo and URL, but I decided to leave it anonymous, just to heighten the intrigue.

Interior of FGCU Library

I took the poems, along with my camera, to the Florida Gulf Coast University Library, which aside from its perpetually full computer lab, is the most vacant place on campus, even during the week before finals.

In the Stacks

I went up to the second floor.

A Likely Shelf

Looked for a likely shelf.

Insert This!

Selected a likely book, inserted my poem, and replaced the book on the shelf.

Yes, I picked a few predictable books: my own, Toni Morrison, Shakespeare, but then I found I had to put them in unlikely books by Ann Coulter and Ayn Rand, in dozens of books on business ethics, in education books on phonics and reading, in art books by Matthew Barney, Rothko, and O'Keeffe, in texts on Florida flora, in books on font styles, in guidebooks to graduate school, in manuals on documentation, in books on yoga and peace studies, and in the books of poetry by poets I really, really dislike--no, I will not name names.

I did target books that were recently checked out, too. Who knows? Maybe we'll bring in to Poetry Thursday those avid readers of biographies of Nikita Dolgushin and other mid-century Kirov prima ballerinas.


I think its a great idea to hide your poetry in books like this! It will be interesting to see if you get any feedback.
Dave said…
Bravo! Especially for the decision to make the poem anonymous, because it's certainly nothing to be ashamed of, and you know you risk someone else claiming it for their own. I'm quite sure I don't have it in me to be this selfless - if I do this, it's gonna be a promo for my blog as well as for PT. So my hat's off to you.
jim said…
Since I didn't leave my name on the poem, only the Poetry Thursday URL, I'm not expecting any direct feedback anytime soon.

But I wonder if it might not eventually get into the student paper . . . .
jim said…

No, it's not about being ashamed in the least, but about getting people to check out the coolest poetry community on-line.

Besides, since it's on campus, I don't want the kids think again, "oh, it's that silly English prof," and casually dismiss this missives.
Pauline said…
Wish I could see the face of the person who checks out Flowering Plants of the Neotropics and finds out about planting lettuces in the dark, which by the way was the inspiration for my bit of line theft last week. This:

"...a word so perfectly reconciled to this desert,
so perfectly a coyote at the edge of the moon-shadowed

is marvelous.
Thank you for taking us on your Guerilla Action tour...I am looking forward to trying this prompt. I did a "found poetry" exercise like this once before when I was an undergrad and thank GOD left my name off too. This poem of yours is so lovely though, it would have been hard for me to leave it unnamed.
Mary J. said…
Hooray! I will be dropping mine in the wind (not literally) this afternoon. Did you feel powerful doing this? Or nervous?

Now does seem a great time to leave poetry around... but isn't it always...
jim said…

Casting it all to the wind, yes.

I had an artist friend who would cut up poems down to words and phrases, creating a kind of word confetti, which she would pour into a brown lunch bag--she might also toss in a few marbles and pebbles and paper stars. She then bundled up the bags, and she would drop them off randomly throughout the community: beneath bleachers at arenas, on park benches, in elevators, etc. Sometimes I think that that was the very best way to leave and share poetry.
amy said…
I don't know if you would have heard about this down south, but a few years ago an artist in Orlando caused quite a stir by leaving his sculptures here and there throughout the city. They were brightly painted wooden sculptures (they all reminded me of abstract dinosaurs), and at first the city tried to treat them like trash--just haul them off and dump them--but business owners actually stood up for the art left on their doorsteps and kept it around for quite a while. The artist's name was Miguel, but as far as I know, no one ever found out who Miguel was.
Rethabile said…
Awesome idea. As I explained to the folks I sent my poem to by email (*sigh*), I write in English but I live in France. Hard for me to actually stand at a street corner and hand out my poetry.

Brilliant move here, Jim.
wonderful! the poem, the idea, the sneaking it into the books...oh! And how I love finding treasures like that in my books! I think I might have to steal that idea from you, and head on over to the UC Berkeley library....hope I can get in!
Jessica said…
this is wonderful -- i can only imagine the surprise of opening up a windows 2000 book (as in your pic) and finding poetry.
Cam said…
This is the coolest idea!
Marilyn said…
Love this idea! And the 'poetry confetti' one, too. Thanks for the photos and for bringing us along with you.
I think you did great. Very brave of you. I have been to poetry reads. This is something I never had the guts to do. Maybe sometime soon...

BTW, I like the poem you selected.
January said…
When I was deciding how to do this assignment, I came here first. So, once again, you're my inspiration.

But leaving a copy of your fantastic poem in an Ann Coulter book ... that's inspired!
Beaman said…
Wonderful thing to do. You must have felt rather exhilarated afterwards.
iblee said…
imagine that: a new use for a library. :)