all night the wind
changes its mind
This delicious snippet of a poem was dropped around Greytown by 'guerrilla' poet Madeleine Slavick as part of the Greytown Arts Festival over the weekend -- and she persuaded a bunch of other poets, including myself, to do the same. She's like that: likes poetry to walk around on legs rather than let it quietly sit in the corner embroidering. Madeleine's from the States but has lived in Hong Kong for some time; now she lives near Masterton.
So we poets walked the streets rolling poems like cigarettes and sliding them into hedges, slipping them flat and upright between bottles on shop shelves, sticking them with cellotape to maps and onto shop signs. Madeleine's best 'drop' was down the front of poet Pat White's artist wife Catherine Day. It was this very poem on a small square of blue paper and it sat there on Catherine's chest for the rest of the afternoon.
Madeleine took delight in saying to the locals gathered at cafes, 'Short blue or long white?' And they chose either this little wind poem on blue or a longer poem on white. Sometimes she started reciting. I think Featherston-poet-formerly-of-Belfast Simon Fleck might have recited some too.
I was proud of my 'drops' -- especially the one between the feathers of a metal moa (following Madeleine's lead) and one slid into a summer top on a posh shop mannequin. The shop owner looked a little startled but said it would be fine for now. When I passed by five minutes later, it had gone. Taken or binned? I only posted one poem all over the place - Translucent which is about crossing the Rimutakas - you can see it in the post before this one. But I made it nice - used an old tin box of paints and painted white lightly over the poem (for the clouds) with a dash of blue where it talks about the blue sheep truck. Very, um playcentre.
John Horrocks didn't print off his poems off like the rest of us, let alone apply paint, he simply took a pair of scissors to one of his books of poetry. Very Dada. Madeleine was disappointed he didn't do it in front of people on the Main Street of Greytown. There's a poem -- hack! -- and there's another one -- snip! What he did do was stick a poem about slaughtering a pig onto the butcher's sign, which made Madeleine laugh a lot.
Saradha Koirala slipped a poem called Amsterdam, printed on white, into a hedge -- and a mother with a pram stopped, read it, and carefully put it back. I saw and said, 'take it!' She said, 'Oh it's so Amsterdam' and took it. The poems in the hedge went quickly. Somewhere I have a picture of them that I'll post here. Tim Jones marched manfully around Greytown distributing what looked like over 100 poems. He seemed more proactive about pushing them into people's hands. It must be the way he does it, he's got a large and friendly smile, I didn't see any being binned.
After we'd been guerrilla poets for an afternoon, we gathered at the Town Hall with other poets and did what poets normally do: read poems.
I love to think about where our 'guerrilla' poems have gone. I'm guessing some are still sitting there, on maps or statues or between bottles of chutney in the deli. Others might be on people's fridges at home or tucked inside a baby's pram. I'm not sure if Catherine's still wearing hers. I'll have to ask.
Madeleine Slavick's poem is published in Something Beautiful Might Happen ~ poetry by Madeleine Slavick, photography by Shimao Shinzo (Tokyon: Ushimaoda 2010)