Poetry for Bare Feet

| 10/4/2011 1:26:42 PM


Although it evokes the senses through language, poetry typically doesn’t often stimulate the reader’s sensory organs—save some passive recognition by the eyes and, occasionally, ears. Poet Stephanie Barber, however, has found a way to craft verse that tickles your feet and delights the eyes, nose, and mind. Barber writes her poetry with grass.

Over at Urbanite, Cara Ober explains the poet’s methodology:

Barber cut stencils out of Kentucky Bluegrass sod—each letter is two feet long—and laid them into the yard at the Poor Farm, an artist residency and exhibition space in Wisconsin. The poem is too large to read from one vantage point, or even to photograph in its entirety. To read it, one has to walk on it.

“To know a poem one must live with it,” writes Barber in a breezy chapbook lecture about her lawn poetry. “One must dig their toes into its very L’s and O’s.” As an English major, I take issue with the notion that you can’t “know a poem” by simply reading it in a book. That aside, Barber’s approach to the production and dissemination of poetry rings unique. Her lawn poetry is broadcast to passersby, but delicately; instead of dying on the yellow pages of a trade paperback in Barnes & Noble, it grows and becomes a living part of the community.

For those of you further than a stone’s-throw from Eastern Wisconsin, thereby unable to dig your toes into its L’s, O’s, or for that matter, any of its other letters, here’s the text of “Lawn Poem”:

Its hooves were mouse and fire
And it was angry and into counting
Also it was starstruck
Like a complicated Mexican companion cat

Barber’s verse-turf idea reminds one—on the surface, at least—of Walt Whitman’s essential collection of American poetry, Leaves of Grass. I’ll leave you with a brief, appropriate excerpt from “Song of Myself” (lines 82-86), perhaps Whitman’s best-known poem:

Jeb Harrison
11/14/2011 12:56:45 AM

Thanks for reprinting the poem I'm glad I don't have to go to Nebraska and tromp around on the lawn to read it! www. jebharrison.com

James Fleming
10/20/2011 8:59:49 PM

This should of been how I ask my wife to marry me.

Bill Uhler
10/6/2011 9:47:25 PM

I wish I could grow grass like this

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