April 2nd, 2007

Egrets Reading

The Great Poetry Exchange

I recently participated in The Great Poetry Exchange, a project at Rick Lupert's Poetry Super Highway. Each participating poet agreed to mail a book/chapbook to another randomly selected poet. In turn, that poet's name was randomly given to yet another poet. This year 138 poets participated in the exchange.

I sent my science fiction haiku chapbook, Red Planet Dust to England where it was received by poet Anna Dickie who wrote Peeling Onions, a chapbook about surviving breast cancer. She wrote me a nice note after receiving my book.

In return, I received Hitchhiking With the Guilty by Jerry Garcia (not of the Grateful Dead).

Garcia is a fellow Angeleno, although the Los Angeles in his poems doesn't resemble the Los Angeles in mine. He focuses in on the grittiness, the ugliness of L.A., where I tend to seek out its wilder parts, the bits of nature and wild beauty that thrive despite the city.

When I write I'm drawn to science and nature over urban socialogical problems.

Yet, this is what the Great Poetry Exchange is all about. A chance to be exposed to images and styles outside of the boxes we create for ourselves in our poetry.

It seems that we want to identify ourselves somehow...as a literary poet, a science fiction poet, a haiku poet, etc, when in truth, we all grow as poets if we reach out beyond our little communities to contemplate poetry radically different from our own.

The sonneteer may not think he has much in common with the slam artist, but in truth, they both like rhythm.

I enjoyed Garcia's poems. Sometimes, we need to take off the rose colored glasses and really see what's there. "Down Wind from a Man Sleeping in His Own Puddle" reminded me all too much of an occasional trip downtown where I've had to walk around a sleeping homeless person on the sidewalk. I've been there in that situation, waiting uncomfortably for a traffic light to turn green where the smell of urine was a bit too intense.

Garcia writes:

The signal changes.
I look at my ring and watch
hold my wallet close.
Perhaps these possessions
are all that stands between me
and the vagrant's bench.


The chapbook was well worth the ride.

If anyone else participated in the Great Poetry Exchange this year, I'd be interested in hearing what happened.