The Greenway Poet Project started with a missing cat poster. The poster was on a utility pole next to the path leading into the Greenway. The cat in the picture gazed across the path to a gigantic crepe myrtle, and there seemed to be a different time stream flowing as tree and cat gazed at each other over days and weeks. I could physically feel the cross current, as I entered the Greenway each day to walk our dog, Coco.
So I wrote a poem to Winnie the Missing Maine Coon Cat, and printed it and sleeved it in plastic like her poster was, and pinned it to the pole under her picture.
I had written a poem about poems in trees — I’d seen a few instances of poets elsewhere putting poems on trees — and I sent that poem off to a journal in the usual way. When it was declined, I got the notion to post it instead on the notice board in the Greenway, at the crossroads to the thread trail. I signed it “Greenway Poet”.
I then began putting poems on trees alongside the path, a few at a time, in different places, anonymously, signing each one as Greenway Poet. I documented each poem with photos I posted on Twitter. At first I was a little concerned that this would be frowned on by the park authorities (whomever they were) but over time it became clear the poems would be left in place. My identity was outed by a neighbor who saw the Winnie poem (which I had signed with my name) and so word got out, gradually, among other regulars on the Greenway.
Most people loved this project. Every so often, someone would stop me on the path and ask, “are you the Greenway Poet?” and I don’t know how they knew but I would always say yes. At first I was surreptitious about posting the poems, as I wanted the anonymity to be part of the magic of their appearing, but gradually it became clear that everyone knew who was doing this. I even received a note of thanks stuck to a poem. People would ask me about them, “got any new poems up?” and the like.
Poems did get removed , from time to time, and sometimes they would then reappear, stuck to a different surface. But a mildly anti-war poem I wrote and posted got torn down rather violently and thrown in a trashbin. I responded with another poem, of course, which also got torn down. I asked some other poet friends to send poems for the Greenway, and I posted several of those, I wanted to just paper the place with poems! But this was not as easy to do as I thought it might be, and poems continued to be torn down.
Who was doing this, we wondered? I was encouraged by everyone to “keep at it” and so after a few weeks, I posted poems again. They remained. But shortly thereafter, poems began disappearing again.
I would take them down if they got weather damaged which of course they did eventually, but I would try to leave poems up for a week or two so everyone would have a chance to see them. It was discouraging to have them disappear the day after I put them up. I tried posting them in different areas, but that didn’t protect them.
This went on for months, both the encouragement to keep the project going, and the destruction of poems. When I found two poems ripped into little pieces one day, I decided it was time to step back and stop posting them. It was clear there was an angry person at work, as path-side plants were also torn into as though someone had ripped branches and leaves off as they passed by.
I ran into two regulars one day on the bridge who asked me why there were no new poems, one fellow bluntly asking “Did you dry up?” which made me laugh… I told them what was going on and they both said, well, we miss the poems.
After a while, I started again, just posting on the notice board, but it wasn’t the same. People had truly enjoyed encountering the poems as they walked, on trees, and having them on the notice board lacked that element of magic.
So for now, the project is on hiatus. As our world, in the winter of 20/21, is going through shadow eruptions, political and social, it seems good to watch and wait and hold steady, for a possible future return. I have my eyes set on Spring.