Training for assistants to the Regional Poem Elf


a mountain and a mountain, see, it’s simple


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):



  1.  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



  1. 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.



  1. 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.



  1. 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.



  1. 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.



  1. 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.



  1. Sally Kerr

    Maggie, congratulations on the 10th anniversary of your Poem Elf blog! And thank you for creating a wonderful resource and bright point in the day! Sally


  2. Pam

    This Li Po poem is one of my favorites. Thank you so much for sharing. I need to post this on my bathroom mirror. Sending you a warm aloha and wishes for continued great health… and silence.

  3. Indigo Emrys

    Congratulations on 10 poetic years! My New Year’s Resolution this year was to read poetry every night before bed. So far, so good on the resolution, but now, in this crazy world we are living in, I think we need to get the poems out there where they can inspire and perhaps brighten someones day. Thank you for the inspiration!

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