Old Habits Die Hard: Replacing Free Poetry with Free Books

Often we see books as signs of civilization. I take in their tree trunk roots and inked spines and think only of the sky:

(books belong in the wild)

Color photograph of two crates filled with books, a sign reading "Free Books", some orange metal chairs as well as trees in a gravel section of a park in West Philly.

Tyler came down to Philly from New York to help me declutter for my trip back to Los Angeles. Out of all the material possessions I had acquired through friends, strangers, sales…books were the weightiest. There were books I found, books given to me, books forgotten by others, books I bought, books I brought with me, books worn from travel, and books still new from continuous upkeep.

My instinct was to give them all away. Most of the things I have while wandering are given to me by others. Why not send them off the same way?


We set up the books in the morning at a park in West Philly. When we stopped by later in the afternoon, most of the books were gone. There was a hipster family taking their time while browsing the collection. Tyler and I watched as they shifted through titles, eventually coming away with as much as they could carry.

I packed away the rest of my things and came back to California. I always come back in April; I think it has a little to do with the fact that it is my favorite month (which may have to do with the fact that it is the month I was born in). The books I came back with can now find refuge on my shelf.

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April happens to be National Poetry Month. Each year, the Academy of American Poets commissions a designer to create the annual poster. This year’s is created by Roz Chast, using words by the late Mark Strand.

Mel is collecting pictures and writing poetry about Singapore every day this month. Tyler arrives in Singapore in a few weeks; he set up a blog to document the journey, starting with Typhoid pills & scuba diving lessons.

I’m eating a new/old poetry these days. It’s not traditional or post-modern; it’s programming. I have a lot to say about it but I don’t know if any of it is relevant.

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This is the first time I’ve been without my typewriter. Using an electric stove has been strangely off-putting.

A new kind of spring cleaning.

Happy Easter!