Kathleen Dean Moore's Blog

Can Really Bad Poetry Save the Prairie?

I’ve just returned from northern Illinois, where the highways roll past endless fields of genetically modified, pesticide-drenched corn and soybeans. It’s a monotonous landscape - dried, carcinogenic cornstalks, clacking in a light wind. But it may soon get more interesting.

What if Burma Shave-style signs sprouted overnight from the ditches along the poisoned fields? Picture early-morning sun shining on four little home-made signs. On the signs? Really bad poetry that unfolds line by line, sign by sign, jovially informing passing motorists about what they are seeing in the fields, and what they are not. Something like this:

To plant this corn,
What did he bury?
Butterflies, flowers,
The singing prairie.

Ack, I admit. But poetic quality is not the point here. The point is to make sure that people understand the costs that toxic chemical-based agriculture is imposing on them and on the Earth. I sat in my motel room in Illinois, writing doggerel on the little pad of paper that a motel always provides.

Spraying fields
With deadly Round-up
Brings us cancer
From the ground up.

He would be
A good deal wiser
Not to spray
Poison fertilizer.

The words flew off my motel ball-point pen. One stanza per sign, four signs, one after another along the edge of the field - what writer could resist this challenge?

On these peas
Kill fish and krill
In distant seas.

Please don’t trade
Bird-song in the morn
To fuel your car
With Round-up corn.

No copyrights here. I give these verses free to anybody who thinks it’s wrong to destroy rich soils, introduce carcinogens into the air and water, pollute rivers and create dead zones in the Gulf of Mexico, all the while increasing the carbon load in the atmosphere and making a ton of money. Use these verses, or better yet, write your own. Write hundreds of them. Let bad poetry bloom in every ditch.