Secret Poetry Project
Participate in an ongoing global poetry collaboration!
Almost four years ago now, back when I was living in California, I was working for a voter registration organization. My job consisted of walking around the seedier neighborhoods and apartment complexes of North Orange County — my neighborhoods, the parks in which I had played as a kid, and where my own kids played, the apartments where my students lived — in the evenings between 5 and 8pm, knocking on people’s doors doing my best to convince them to register to vote. This job was occasionally rewarding, but more often it was just a drudge, accompanied by suspicion, annoyance, and about a million slammed doors. One perk, however, for someone like myself, who is obsessively in love with the strange details of life, was the ability to observe at close range instances of deep reality.
I started taking notes, weird poet-y notes, the kind that don’t make any kind of linear sense.
“You should be Proud / on a sticker / more glued-on observations;”
“It is a song, asleep / in a black basket / hooded, like an asp;”
“Your voice a soft wallop / sparking up up / is there no end to ascension;”
“We live in this sharp blue Cadillac / the way the universe lives inside the sun;”
“Soggy couches with no cushions: 4 / children collected on couches: 11 / old mylar balloon disco balls in the branches of trees: 9;”
They were wild poet notes, unconnected, unburdened by the need to become anything. I wrote these notes, at first on the back of the voter registration logs that the job provided me with, but they always came back to me circled or highlighted with big aggressive question marks and arrows, so eventually I got a small pocket sized notebook and wrote them there. I started calling it the Secret Poetry Project. Once in a while, some of the lines would make it into a “real” poem, or story, but mostly they were just an exercise in close reading the world. They were field notes about being human. These were the rules: 1. Observe the world. 2. Take poet notes. 3. Make poems
Cut to last night when in one of those perfect storm moments when various disparate ideas triangulate themselves into a single point in the mind, when it suddenly occurred to me that it would be a super awesome idea to invite everyone to take part in this. So here’s the invitation. Get your own notebook — it can be an actual notebook, a notes file on your phone, a page in gdocs, a voice recording file; whatever works for you — and start observing. Take weird wild poet notes. And, if you’re so inclined, tweet them to us at @MagazineCharge with the hashtag #secretpoetryproject or #spp. We will compile these notes and our featured poet for each issue will create a poem incorporating whichever of these lines feel the most alive to them. As a collaborator and contributor, you, the wild street-team poets, will be credited as well with the creation of the poem.
If you’re interested, and want to let us know, comment with “I’m in” below.
Ps. I’m so excited for this, honestly. Can’t wait to read your lines. #secretpoetryproject. Ready, set, let’s go.