It started with art. “Art Abandonment” it was called. You made a small piece of art, then left it in a public place for someone to find. The idea was clever and interesting, but I hated the word “abandoned.” It didn’t feel like a surprise or something pleasant. It sounded (to me) like someone leaving a basket at a doorstep, because they couldn’t manage the contents of the basket. But still, I loved the idea of leaving a piece of handmade art, something your soul created and loved, for a stranger to discover.
Even better, I loved the idea that the maker would never know who found it or what happened to it. Maybe it was loved and smiled at. Maybe it was returned to the place it was discovered. Possibility. That’s what it was. Unknown possibility.
How about if I did this with poetry? Small haiku, or micro-poetry I had written myself. Sure, you could copy other people’s haiku and leave them for someone to find. But leaving a piece of yourself for someone else to find, without control, seemed like a perfect idea for poetry.
I didn’t want to call it abandoned poetry, though. Sounds unfinished. After trying out a lot of words (and getting some great suggestions from friends), I settled on Stow-Away Poetry. It hitches a ride without permission or payment, and turns up in unexpected places.
simply leave it. I did a test run by leaving it in Trader Joe’s. (I used a Basho haiku for starters.) I left no explanation, because I love the idea of allowing the discoverer to puzzle out the meaning.
You could create your own postcard, with the poem on the message side, and send it to a friend anonymously.
You could write your poem on a sheet of handmade paper, roll it into a tube, and tie it with a string or ribbon.
I’m thinking of creating a group on Facebook, so we can post poems, how we shaped them, and where we left them. Interested? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll invite you to join the group.
–-Quinn McDonald is turning poetry into a reckless art. She is planning a class on writing Stow-Away Poetry.