So here are some of the best photos from the festival. There are many more photos, and many more people who partook whose photos I did not take. Here was my M.O. : I stood about 20 yards away from the sign so that I could take photos of  people interacting with the sign on its own merit, and after they took a poem, I’d approach them and ask if I could use their photo.



"Hey, you can't put that sign there." "Can I tell you about my project?" "I know who you are, you're the guy that sells poems in malls." "No, I sell poems for trash..." (We talk about the project). "Oh, well, I have no problem with that, you can put your sign up wherever you like and if anyone asks, you just say I said so, I'm in charge of the event." Sweet.

“Hey, you can’t put that sign there.”

“Can I tell you about my project?”
“I know who you are, my wife told me about you,  you’re the guy that sells poems in malls.”
“No, I sell poems for trash…” (We talk about the project).
“Oh, well, I have no problem with that, you can put your sign up wherever you like and if anyone asks, you just say I said so, I’m in charge of the event.”

When I arrived Riyaaz Qawwali played some mystical Sufi music! They are from Austin and wanted to bring this peaceful and worshipful music to us all.

When I arrived Riyaaz Qawwali played some mystical Sufi music! They are from Austin and wanted to bring this peaceful music to us all.

I forgot a hammer! So for the first hour or so I propped the sign up against the trash bins until I could figure something out, and people started coming for poems anyway.  Kristen  Donovan, who works at the wellness center at VCU picked the first poem, read it to her husband, and then picked up some trash.

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Poetry workshop friends

Propping the sign against the trash cans was not too safe. I realized it could easily fall on some one. So I put the sign down and went looking for a hammer. I found  a sound engineer, whose photo I forgot to take, and he lent me a hammer with the faith that I’d return it at the end of the day, which of course, I did.  So with his kindness in hand, I returned and propped the sign in the ground. Many people said I needed a mallet hammer. And I think they are right. Regular hammers are quite noisy.




I moved to a couple of different locations throughout Brown Island, trying to find the best spot. I felt weirder than normal doing so, and people looked at me funny, but then I’d tell them about the project and some people would take poems while I was walking.


CIMG1005 The second locationIMG_5751


was on Brown Island and it did pretty well:

IMG_5746 : Melanie, I friend I met last year,  picked a poem, which happened to be by a friend she was meeting up with later that day!  Small world.IMG_5747“I love it” said the woman with curly hair. “Did you get the photo of me asking, what’s this about?” He asked.


I left the sign up for a while so I could get some Indian food, which was delicious. I then noticed the ecostation, and thought that I had to put the sign there for the rest of the evening.


I waited a while and few people were approaching the sign, so I decided to watch some performances for bit.

Leonardo Sandoval is an amazing tap dancer

Leonardo Sandoval is an amazing tap dancer.


Then, I had a sense that the sign was being used and that I should return to it.

Surprise! Marlene works with Art180 and loved the project. We were sold out of poems so I read one of T.S. Elliot's cat poems to her daughter.

Surprise! Marlene works with Art180 and loved the project. We were sold out of poems (though we still had some drawings) so I read one of T.S. Elliot’s cat poems to her daughter.  Then she told her friend, Amanda McGann.  a 5th grade teacher who is currently doing a math project with her students where they weigh the trash that they pick up from the river, about Poetry for Trash.  After picking a painting by Dan Sheets, Amanda sang us a song that she sings to her 5th graders about Behaving to be in the Bee hive, i.e. her classroom.





Then more people started to notice the sign:


IMG_5814IMG_5816 The second guy here, Alex, came back and said: “hey man, you’re low on poems, well, here’s one of my own.”


“The Fire, by Joe, the Bard, and Alex, the Muse

This is a poem for your jars but it doesn’t rhyme, but its about a great fire. The inner force you hold in your chest. She moved her lips against mine and the world rained fire around us. Alex and Joe’s fire.”

Thanks dude!

As the festivities were starting to die down, I decided  to head back to my original spot before heading home, since it was on the way.

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After some more people picked poems for trash, I asked a couple of the volunteers if I could leave the sign at the festival overnight. All of them said that’d be fine. Then, from a distance, I witnessed a crime right in front of the Poetry for Trash sign:

CIMG1008 Some one littered right in front to the sign! Which was right next to a trash can and a recycling bin!  What is even more astonishing is that for a minute, this person was reading the sign, and then turned, back towards it, looked around, then  just reached into a pocket and threw the trash in the grass, quickly, thinking no one saw.  I decided not to take a photo of the culprit.  I told my roommate, Ryan Speray about it.


IMG_5997He is in law school and  said that “littering is like cheating, it is breaking a common trust.” I like that comparison, so please, don’t cheat. Don’t litter OUR parks! I wanted to yell, but I  write poems and put up signs with hearts on them instead.




The next day, Sunday.


After a night on its own, slightly bent, but holding up pretty well, the sign was ready to serve again.  My friend Kevin was at a show late into the night and said he saw someone using the sign from a distance, which was good to hear.


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The first performance I saw of the day was the Ongwehonwe Singers and Dancers. They are a matriarchal society and so their first performance was dedicated to Mothers, giving thanks to women and to the earth.  The women always have at least one foot on the ground. The children are not taught the dance formally, but are immersed in it as a way of life. The singers try to outlast the dancers and vice versa. In the second photo, the men perform the Chicken Dance.


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One of the first people to pick a  poem was Kristin, who  said that her friend Marlene told her about the project, so she came and found me.  We both share the same birthday, which happened to be that Sunday! Happy Birthday to us! She took a drawing by Dan sheets and a poem by Dexter Booth, which she latter posted to the Poetry for Trash Facebook page!  This sight would become the best spot.


IMG_5981 What is the gift economy equivalent for return customer?  Marlene was back for more poems and brought her whole family along:


IMG_5982IMG_5989IMG_5983: Maya on her father’s shoulders, holds a poem by a local Richmonder.

IMG_5874  I approached the woman in the yellow hat with her partner whose last name I remember is Green, and He said, “Hey, have you seen this project? Its pretty cool, do you know whose doing this?” Well….Eventually, I saw this guy picking a poem for his daughter:

IMG_5867IMG_5868“Lets find some trash,”he said, and they went hunting.




“What is this?!” I heard her exclaim.  After reading a poem to her friends, she noticed me taking photos and she said, “is this your project?!” I nodded, and  she gave me a hug, then picked up some trash.


How much trash is Shell Silverstein worth?IMG_5857 IMG_5855


IMG_5926IMG_5973The lady with the white hair said that she was a painter and would love to help me paint another sign some day. (Pst..If you’re reading this and you can paint or are talented at building things, please help me build more signs!)


She picked a Richmond original and then found  “a cool piece of trash.”


IMG_5995Respect veterans. Always.


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“Should I put my name on it?” He (in the black and blue shirt) asked.
“If you want to?” I said.

I think that there is something special about anonymity and generosity, not that anonymity is necessary, but I think anonymity might offer a type of protection in giving a gift away without expectation of return.


“You can keep the poem,” I said after seeing her (in the hat) put the poem back in the nest.
“You’re running low on poems,” she said, “I enjoyed reading it, and I always pick up trash, but I want someone else to enjoy it.”  Generosity is contagious.   Also, its a good thing to keep running out of poems.


Taking a break to watch the parade!



Not everything you find on the ground is trash. IMG_5979While taking some photos of people, I noticed someone was lingering by my hangout spot about 20 yards away. They left before I returned, and I found this right where I had been sitting. Did they loose it or is it a gift?  It now goes around my camera lens, if its yours, let me know, and I’ll give it back to you, plus a poem.


IMG_5946IMG_5948 IMG_5952 IMG_5953Mom picks a poem, then reads an Emily Dickinson poem to her son. “Lets go pick up some trash,” she says as they walk away.  And in the next, he’s jumping and showing off his poem! Below to the left: When I stepped out of the porter potty, these thre folks were reading each other poems.


In the green shirt: “I’ve been picking up trash all weekend, so you owe me a lot of poems,” she laughed.

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She picked a poem by a local Richmonder. Then sat down to write her own poem:IMG_5942IMG_5944  IMG_5939 While her partner asked my favorite question of the day:

“what happens when there is no more trash?”


These next two took poems and gave poems in return:




Then I decided to take the sign back down to the Island, and on the way, these two asked for a poem. She is a Yoga instructor and he’s an English teacher and plans to tell his students about the project.




After setting up the sign, I decided to satisfy my cravings for onion rings.  While waiting in line,


IMG_5750I registered to vote in Virginia! A place I like to call home.

 IMG_5903“Oh, sorry, is this your sign?” He asked.
“Yeah, but its no problem.”
“They just need some shade, maybe they’ll attract some people.” And really, who could resist this combination poetry and pups in dresses:


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How much trash is that book hat worth? She picked a poem, wrote and gave a poem, and said she’ll pick up trash throughout the day.

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The Folk festival was an amazingly good time and many poems were picked and written, and much trash picked up.



CIMG1022As I was packing up to leave he saw the sign on the ground, and after reading it, asked: “Can I pay you?” “No, you just pick up trash,” I said. “Well, can I tip you?”

“No, you just pick up trash.” Then she chimed in: “You’re not doing this for profit!? Wow!”

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He read the poem to her:

“In the end, only three things matter.

How much you loved. How gently you lived.

How gracefully we let go of things not meant for us.”

They spent a good couple minutes talking about what each line meant. Then I told him that he could keep the poem and reassured him that all he had to do was pick up trash for it.


This project is not meant for me, this project is meant for you because you all made it possible.  Again, thank you Richmond for believing poetry is worth trash. You all make Richmond a very beautiful city and I am humbled and grateful to be among all of you.



Special thanks to my roommate Ryan Speray, who drove me to the park!












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