Are you a poetry guerrilla? Let’s talk tactics!

There’s a poem in the Imaginarium called ‘The Poetry Guerrilla’. You can listen to me reading it here:

You can also read the poem on the National Poetry Day website at nationalpoetryday.co.uk/poem/the-poetry-guerrilla At this point it’s important not to confuse a poetry guerrilla with a poetry gorilla. So what exactly are we talking about here? Guerrilla poetry involves publishing and sharing poetry in unexpected and unconventional ways, and in unexpected and unusual places. Guerrilla poets like to choose surprising media or materials for their poems. The word ‘guerrilla’ actually comes from warfare – guerrillas are a type of soldier who use the element of surprise in fighting their enemies. But we won’t be doing any fighting here, just poeting.

The poet Mark Waddell makes poems on signs in his front garden for passersby to read

Here are some examples of guerrilla poetry action –

  • Chalking poems on a pavement or a wall (using chalk means the poems will wash or fade away, so there’s no damage to anyone’s property, which is important).
  • Writing poems on postcards and leaving them on cafe tables for people to find.
  • Standing in the street and performing poems to passersby.
  • Sneaking around in the supermarket and popping poems in people’s shopping trollies.
  • Publishing poems on the sides of buses (obviously you need the cooperation of the bus company to pull this one off).
  • Making edible poems in icing on cakes for people to eat.
  • Writing poems on paper or making a mini booklet and leaving them on public transport, sticking them to lamp posts, leaving them on the shelves of libraries, in people’s letter boxes, etc.

Could you be a poetry guerrilla?

Try these 3 tests and find out!

Level 1: Tell your story – in a flash

Remember the poetry guerrilla in my poem? Well, let’s just suppose that you are that very guerrilla. You’ve been up all night, putting poetry into the world. You’re up every night. Where do you go? What do you wear? How do you travel? Why do you do it? How do you make sure nobody sees you? What do you love about your job? What’s not so great about it? Where do you get all your poems from? You have exactly 100 words (not one word more or one word less) to tell us something of your story. You can use one or two of these questions as a prompt, or you can tell us anything you like. Go!

Level 2: If I were a poetry guerrilla

At level 1 you entered the mind of the poetry guerrilla in my poem. Now you’re going to enter the mind of your very own poetry guerrilla. Suppose you, as the ‘real you’ that you are now, were going to become a poetry guerrilla. How might you go about it? What sorts of things might you get up to? Well, let’s find out… It’s time to get brainstorming and list-making! You can be a lone guerrilla and do this solo, or you can get a bunch of friends or family or classmates to pitch in their ideas too. Totally your call. Ready? Go! What we want is a list of 10 poetry guerrilla activities that you could actually do, in the next few weeks. The do-able part is very important here (so if you were thinking of dropping a rain of poems from a helicopter, you’d need to already know someone with a helicopter who’d be up for it). Here are the rules: in everything on your list you should be sure that you stay safe, don’t damage anyone else’s property, and don’t invade anyone’s personal space.

Level 3: Pedal to the medal

You guessed what was coming next, right? This is where you turn ideas into action and actually become a poetry guerrilla. The mission, if you choose to accept is, is simple: take your list of 10 from level 2, choose one thing from that list, and do it. Then another. Then another. And so on. You can act alone, or you can form a guerrilla gang. (If you form a gang, then you will no doubt need a special gang name). Perhaps your family or your class at school could form a poetry guerrilla gang, and over the course of a term you could work through the whole list.
Go guerrillas – let’s fill this world with poetry!
 
The artist Robert Montgomery makes poems in lights

 

P.S. Poetry guerrillas on the loose in London!

Many thanks to Eleanor Parker, librarian at St James Senior Girls’ School in London, who dropped me a line to say that the whole school had become a gang of poetry guerrillas as part of National Poetry Day 2020! 

“After listening to ‘The Poetry Guerrilla’ by Shauna Darling Robertson and viewing some real life examples of the art, pupils were asked to create their own post-it poems which they put up around the school, inspiring others with their vision of the world (the theme for National Poetry Day 2020 was ‘Vision’). The pupils really enjoyed it and it was so fun to spot the poems all around school.”

Eleanor kindly shared a few photos.


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