I'm sitting in the almost-too-cool-to-be-borne Yours and Owls here in Wollongong, in my first stint as Cafe Poet. I have my free pot of tea, I have opened the file to a new writing project, and people have already begun raiding the Poet-Tree (see below) clearly, things have begun well.
The Poet-Tree, brainchild of fellow Cafe Poet Bronwyn Lovell, is a tree with leaves that are snatches of poetry. I've grabbed the words of some of my favorite poets, and sprinkled in a leaf or two of my own, because if you want to run with the big dogs, you have to hang with the big dogs. It didn't take long before pretty much everyone in the cafe descended on the tree to take a leaf for themselves (which I quickly replenished from my stock, which I had brought along out of a gratifyingly useful sense of optimism).
If you'd like to build a Poet-Tree for yourself, here's how I did it.
- A round disk of masonite or wood, about 10" (25cm) across
- A dowel about 1/2" (1cm) diameter, about 18" (45cm) long
- 15 to 18 battery clips/alligator clips (or so)
- The same number of zip ties, of a width that comes close to fitting into the ends of the battery clips
- Some wire; green looks nice
- Some electrical tape (I used green, because it was the least jarring color I had, but brown would probably be a lot better)
- Some green paper (I used green sparkly paper)
- A skein of thick brown yarn (you won't use anywhere near the whole thing, but it's hard to buy just a few meters/yards of yarn); I found some chenille yarn that was absolutely perfect on sale in a craft store for $1 a skein
- Two small nails with wide, flat heads on them
- Wire cutters
- Hammer the disk onto the end of the dowel. Mine is still a little wobbly, so I'm probably going to have to find some way to steady it (maybe glue stones to the base next to the dowel, which will have the added advantage of making it look more foresty and everything).
- Slide the ends of the ties into the sockets on the clips and crimp very firmly (you may need to flatten the sockets just a little bit to fit the ends of the zip ties in; I did).
- Use the tape to fasten the other end of the zip ties to the dowel.
- Make some leaves out of the paper and glue them to pieces of the wire that are about the same length as the zip ties; I used leaf "sandwiches" from which protruded the wires. Attach them to the dowel after the same manner.
- Hammer the other nail partway into the top of the dowel.
- Drape yarn strings down along the dowel from their center, looping them around the nail in the top. As you drape each one, glue it in place so it looks like bark. You'll have to work around the zip ties and leaf wires, but that makes them look like they're growing out of the "tree", so that's all right.
- Write up a bunch of poetry snippets on pieces of paper; I printed mine out because (a) my handwriting is abysmal and (b) you can fit more computer-printed poetry on a leaf-sized slip than you can if you're writing by hand.
- Clip the snippets onto the clips, and make sure you have some to replenish the tree with!
As I mentioned, I'll probably be tweaking the tree to make it look more foresty and sylvan, and to steady the wobbly dowel. But overall I'm very pleased with how it turned out, and how people gathered round to take a piece of poetry. More poetry in people's lives! My mission has begun well indeed!