For those interested in helping me celebrate 10 years of blogging at Poem Elf (read about the collaborative project here), a few thoughts on process.
A reader asked for suggestions on choosing a venue for a poem. That’s something I haven’t thought much about because often there’s not a lot of thought involved—the connection between poem and place becomes apparent only after much musing and puttering. But just as often there is a plan, if we use the loosest definition of “plan.” Here’s the method in my madness (or maybe more accurately, here’s the madness in my method):
- Start with the setting of the poem. This is not subtle but it is really fun.
Examples: “Sometimes the Field” by Holly Wren Spaulding left in a field
“In the Library” by Charles Simic (a poem about angels and librarians) tucked into a library book about angels
- Take an image from the poem (it doesn’t even have to be a central image) and put the poem where that image can be found.
Example: “Come and Be My Baby” by Maya Angelou begins, The highway is full of big cars/going nowhere fast so I put it above a highway. Again, subtlety is not the goal.
- Consider who the poem is written for or who you imagine reading it and put it in a place that caters to those people.
Example: “Poem for Emily” by Miller Williams is written for a grandchild so I put it in a barbershop frequented by old men.
“Ask Much, the Voice Suggested” by Jane Hirschfield seemed like a good poem for a young woman beginning her adult life, so I attached it to my daughter’s backpack at the airport when she left home to live abroad.
- Connect the mood or subject of a poem to the mood of an event or place you are visiting.
Examples: love poems left at weddings or any event leading up to a wedding, or in these COVID days, on the doorstep of someone whose wedding is cancelled; poems about mothers left in a playground; poems about grief left in a cemetery.
- Take a walk with a poem and put it somewhere, anywhere. Spend the rest of the walk making a connection between the two.
Example: I left Ross Gay’s “Thank You” in a pile of brown leaves for no reason other than I stepped over it. By the end of the walk I realized that the poem brightens dead spots in the soul and landscape.
- Go where you’re pulled. If there’s a place that you love, that intrigues you, that calms you, that fills you with wonder or fills you with dread or just a place you know will make a great picture—that’s a good place for a poem you love or intrigues you, etc. There doesn’t have to be a direct connection at all.
Good luck! Can’t wait to see what you come up with.