Free Books - Typewriter Poetry - Billimarie Lubiano Robinson, Philadelphia (West Philly, 2015)

Old Habits Die Hard: Replacing Free Poetry with Free Books

Originally Posted: April 5th, 2015
Updated: December 31st, 2019

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!

10 thoughts on “Old Habits Die Hard: Replacing Free Poetry with Free Books”

  1. Happy Easter, Billie. I found a used books store in stavanger, Norway and they give me free a lot of vintage illustrated books for my collage. I wish you the best.

    1. Thanks Antonio & Happy Easter to you as well 🙂

      That’s incredible. Used books stores are magical; I’m glad they’re giving you material for your art. Are there any examples on your website?

      Take care!

    1. Thanks, Valerie…Happy Easter to you also!

      It’s strange in the beginning, because you feel like you might have all these regrets after giving things away. Yet afterwards, you realize you’re better off for not holding on too tightly. The happiness on people’s faces (like my neighbors, who took all the items I put on the curb) makes everything worth it.

  2. Happy Easter and happy birthday! I love that you wrote, “Why not send them off the same way?” I too love to give things away. Makes me feel like those things have so much more value to them when they are thoughtfully given away instead of sold for monetary value that will disappear faster than it was acquired.

    1. Happy Easter & Happy Belated Birthday! Just saw your birthday post 🙂

      That’s true! There’s definitely a value aspect that is in some ways more sustainable than an impersonal small monetary gain.

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