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The inspiring story of strangers filling a nightstand with poetry



Theresa Civantos Barber - published on 01/13/23

One woman’s pandemic hobby has gone on to fuel a quiet movement in San Francisco and shown just how important poetry is.

Lots of us took up a new hobby during the pandemic, but most of these didn’t go farther than our own front doors.

But one woman’s pandemic hobby has gone on to fuel a quiet movement in San Francisco and shown just how important poetry is.

Amanda Barrows is a San Francisco park ranger by day and a poet by night. When she signed up for a poetry class, her final assignment was to “bring poetry into the community,” reported The Washington Post

The assignment inspired her to bring poetry to the city parks where she works. A colleague offered her an old nightstand, and the idea took off.

She made a sign that reads, “Take a poem, leave a poem”; filled the drawer at the top with paper and pens; and added a box at the bottom for poems. Then she asked friends to help fill the drawer with their favorite poems for people to take.

View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Poetry for the People (@ccsf_p4p)

The nightstand has been an unexpectedly big success as it travels among San Francisco’s parks. More than 100 handwritten poems have filled the box so far, a mix of classic poems and original compositions.

Poetry for all

Poetry can seem like an old-fashioned or inaccessible art form, but the little poetry nightstand is a beautiful witness to just how approachable it can be. 

Poems express all kinds of emotions and experiences, and many are just plain fun! Most of all, poetry is something truly beautiful, an art that brings together lyrical language and satisfying rhythm and rhyme. 

As poet Beatrice Schenk de Regniers once wrote,

Keep a poem in your pocket 

And a picture in your head 

And you’ll never feel lonely 

At night when you’re in bed. 

The little poem will sing to you 

The little picture bring to you 

A dozen dreams to dance to you 

At night when you’re in bed.

Barrows shares many of the poems from the nightstand on Instagram, and you can see pictures and updates there. 

In a disappointing twist, recently the nightstand was stolen or taken accidentally. But a new version is in the works so that the poetry spot can live on. 

In the meantime, poetry fans can enjoy all the poems that were shared at the nightstand so far. What a great way to keep a poem in your pocket … or in this case, in a nightstand drawer!

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