Kona’s column 12: Going guerrilla

October 7, 2010

It’s National Poetry Day!  In the spirit of bringing poetry to the people, here’s a grab-bag of playful suggestions for putting some poetry back into daily life.

Out and about

* Window dressing: If you leave your car on the street or in a car-park all day, print out a poem in a good-sized font and stick it up in the rear passenger window.

* Lid lit: If you use a laptop on the train, stick a poem on the back of the lid so the person opposite you has something to look at too.

* While-you-wait: Donate a poetry book to your doctor’s or dentist’s waiting room.

* Word-up the library: Request that your local library buys a new poetry collection or anthology for the circulation shelves.

* Ear-bend a friend: If you’re going to a poetry reading, think of some friends who’ve never been to one and invite them along.

At work

* Tiptoe tantalizer: Print out small poems on pieces of paper, and trim away the unprinted margins.  Then spend a week or two sticking poems in unpredictable places (stationery cupboard / tea-room milk carton / washroom mirror etc) while nobody is looking.

* Front of house: If you work somewhere with a reception/waiting area, add a poetry magazine or two to the piles of OK, Top Gear, Country Life and industry newsletters.

* Nosy nibbles: Put a poetry screensaver on your workplace computer, or (even simpler) leave your web browser displaying a poem when you leave your desk.

* Evolve-a-poem: Print out a short poem in large text, with words well spaced, and stick it up in a public place.  Leave some Post-It notes and a fat marker pen, and encourage people to replace a word in the poem as they pass (by covering it with a Post-It bearing a new word).  Take a photo at regular intervals, and make a photo gallery showing how the poem evolves over time.  Starting with a rhyming poem adds to the fun!

* Limerick laughs: Seek a few willing co-workers, then write the first line of a limerick about each of them. (Tip: include yourself as a subject!).  Then run a competition for the best completed limerick, with a box for anonymous submissions.  At the end of the competition period, have a morning tea judging session, where the submissions (unless too obscene!) are read out, preferably by their subjects.  Vote on the winner – or simply choose the one that gets the biggest laugh.  Afterwards, have a guessing game to find out who wrote it – if they’ll admit to it!

At home

* MPs please: Send a letter or email to your local MPs asking them what their favourite poem is.  Suggest they mention this on their blog/website.

* Better than Kellogg’s: Stick a poem to the back of the morning cereal box, for something to read during breakfast. (Better than reading the cereal propaganda for the three hundredth time!)

* Poem-as-grace: If you have a sit-down meal with your family, read out an appropriate short poem before you start to eat.

* Bedtime story booster: If you’re still at the reading-a-bedtime-story phase of parenting, add on a poem afterwards. This is the one time when your kids’ love of procrastination works in your favour!

* Pillow talk: Read a poem to your partner in bed. If he or she’s the unromantic type, make it a funny one.

* Round-up round-off: If you send out annual Christmas cards and/or newsletters to friends and relatives, enclose a favourite poem and a brief comment about why you like it.

* Book groupie: If you’re in a fiction book group, bring along a few poems to read aloud after you’ve all finished discussing this month’s novel.  (A friend did this, and says the poetry segment of the evening is now the most popular part!)

At school

There are loads of suggested poetry exercises for schools available online, so here’s just one fun Primary-level suggestion:

* Rhyme bingo: Prepare bingo-style cards where each square contains a one-syllable word (“bat”, “run”, “pig”, “ball” etc);  each card should be different.  Distribute a card to each player, then read out a list of one-syllable words.  The players can mark off a square when its word rhymes with the announcer’s word (“cat”/”bat”, “fun”/”run” etc).  First to check off their whole card shouts “Rhymo!”.

Whatever you do, we hope a little bit of poetry finds its way into your day today – and don’t forget about the weeks and months to come!  If you try any of the above suggestions, please tell us all about it in the comments below. Also, we’d love to hear about your own favourite guerrilla poetry ideas – poem flashmob, anyone?

Kona Macphee is a UK-born, Australian-bred poet now living and working in Scotland. This column is a monthly feature. Kona also facilitates the Poetry Society Poetry Surgeries – there is another set of Poetry Surgeries on Saturday 4 December. You can also hear Kona on the SPL podcast ‘Witching Hour’and  follow her on Twitter.

2 Responses to “Kona’s column 12: Going guerrilla”


  1. […] did you do? Anyone take Kona’s advice and sneak poetry upon the unsuspecting? Bake poetry onto a cake, like our pals at Poetry Digest? […]


  2. […] Kona Macphee on guerilla poetry (like this? Check out my poetry ninja post of a few months back) […]


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