Amateur poets dropped by the 'poetry nightstand' set up by a park ranger to share their heartfelt art.
Amanda Barrows, a San Francisco park ranger, decided to do something pretty special for her community. Inspired by Little Free Library, a nonprofit providing free book-sharing boxes where anyone may take a book or share a book, Barrows decided to combine her two worlds — parks and poetry. She turned a weathered nightstand given by a colleague into something beautiful. Barrows placed it on the ground in the middle of Golden Gate Park in San Francisco and attached a simple sign that read: Take a poem, leave a poem.
The 30-year-old San Francisco resident's initiative struck a chord with many other amateur poets in the city who left their poems on the nightstand. One handwritten poem read: The wind graces this park / Like a breezy whisper / as sounds of longing/echo from the nearby piano. Barrows who enrolled in City College of San Francisco’s Poetry for the People class was surprised by the positive feedback and engagement. “It’s completely unexpected,” said Barrows, according to The Washington Post. “I’m really taken aback by the outpouring of support.” Speaking of her poetry class she said she had " a really beautiful time” being part of the class as it was a way “to keep the inspiration flowing and keep myself writing.”
The course was founded by CCSF instructor Leslie Simon in 1975 and is called Poetry for the People. As part of the course, students are asked to find a way to “bring poetry into the community.” Since Barrows is in parks all the time, she decided would leave the nightstand she got in one park for four days before moving it to a new location. Barrows plans on getting the nightstand to all the 220 parks managed by The San Francisco Recreation and Park Department. “I was having anxiety, I had no idea what I was going to do, then it sort of just came to me,” Barrows told SFGATE. “I was inspired by the little free libraries you see in SF, where you ‘take a book, leave a book,’ and thought, ‘Maybe I could do this with poetry.’” Barrows didn't expect The Poetry for the People nightstand to do so well. “I didn’t think I’d get any engagement with this project,” she said. “I have 70 pieces of writing, and it’s only been in parks for a week and a half. It’s like actual poetry and most people’s own words — people have written some beautiful stuff.” She's put up all the handwritten poems she's received on the nightstand and has shared them on the Instagram account @ccsf_p4p.
While some are written by kids others are written in a much more deep way. She also pointed out that people have written poems in various languages too. “I love to see different people’s handwriting, and for them to be sharing their personal words,” she said. “Every day that I check it and I have had submissions, it feels like Christmas.” How long does she plan to keep this going? She admitted that she's not stopping anytime soon and intends to “keep this going indefinitely,” she said. “I look forward to other people contributing their creativity. People can build off it and tell me what they want to see.” “It really is a community project,” Barrows continued. “It belongs to all of us.”