Poetry in Unexpected Places | The Garden Variety
This time of year is beautiful in the city and, while going for a walk this week, I passed by a gorgeous garden with a chalkboard in the center bearing some of the lyrics to Amy Gerstler’s poem “In Perpetual Spring.” I thought this was such a neat idea; there’s nothing like a little garden poetry to brighten up your day!
As you may have gathered from some of my poetry month posts, I love finding poetry off the page in unexpected places. Bringing your poetry book to a garden is lovely, but placing a nature poem in a garden takes the experience that one step further. It was so nice to soak in the poem with all my senses; I could see the vivid colors of the flowers surrounding the words, smell the spring air, feel the slight breeze stirring the leaves as I read. It was such a wonderful way to experience poetry! It also really heightened the emotion of the poem; I found myself relating to statements like these perhaps more than I usually would’ve, as a result:
Suddenly the archetypal
human desire for peace
with every other species
wells up in you.
your secret belief
in perpetual spring,
your faith that for every hurt
there is a leaf to cure it.
(You can read the full poem here)
The poem is from Gerstler’s book Bitter Angel, a collection of innovative poems exploring nature and sexuality for which she was awarded the National Book Critic’s Circle Award for Poetry. In an interview, Gerstler responded to the question of who she writes poetry for with this:
“with contemporary poetry having approximately as many fans as there are devotees of undergoing knee surgery, any sentient breathing reader who’s genuinely interested in poetry . . . not scared of it . . . seems a godsend. . . Ideally, I’d love to write poems that intrigued humans across the board: literary folk and academics as well as dog-walkers, doctors, plumbers, chefs, math professors, jugglers, etc.”
That desire to give poetry a bigger audience, to show its beauty to all types of readers, is exactly what placing poetry in unexpected, public places accomplishes. It removes some of the intimidating, even threatening aspects of picking up a thick, dense poetry book and just lets the poem breathe and stand on its own for everyone to enjoy in their own way (the opposite of the “poetry as punishment” she mentions from her own high school). As Gerstler says, “the human imagination can connect to practically anything,” and putting a poem in a garden just helps us out a little bit. So, if your feeling particularly imaginative on one of these fine, sunny days, take a piece of chalk and liven up your flowerbed, driveway, or street! It will definitely brighten the day of all who pass by, like this poem did for me and, hopefully, by extension, all of you! Happy summer reading.
Suddenly the archetypalhuman desire for peacewith every other specieswells up in you. The lionand the lamb cuddling up.The snake and the snail, kissing.Even the prick of the thistle,queen of the weeds, revivesyour secret beliefin perpetual spring,your faith that for every hurtthere is a leaf to cure it.