Gary Boswell
Recycling words


Gary Boswell's latest collection Allergic to Ammonia (Stride) was published in 1999. In 1998, he was the youngest living poet featured in the bestselling Nation's 100 favourite Comic Poems voted for by the nationwide poetry reading public.

Working with Norfolk District Council's Environmental Health Department, Gary Boswell's project promoted the importance of recycling by writing and collecting poems about recycling and rubbish. Here is his report of the project.


The Earth breathes in

The Earth breathes out

so long as there's not

too much litter about


That's me, Gary Boswell, pinching lines from my own audience dance poem - Tidal Rock - and recycling it into an environmental slogan for the Council's Waste Management awareness programme.


On Easter Monday, I wrote it in giant letters as a linear poem along the Cromer shoreline. Readable to the amblers on the cliff walk. Lots of them on Easter Monday, the weather being kind.

At lunchtime, under the pier, I wrote this in the sand whilst an evergrowing audience of some two or three hundred holidaymakers watched me toil:



Coastline Postcard

each beach

is eating its way





cucumber witches

cast spells





It was a third draft and it changed again as I carved away with my plastic spade, sweating copiously. I was unprepared for the physical side of big beach poems. The mixed audience reaction was more predictable although I'd forgotten how demanding poetry busking can be - hadn't really expected beach poems to be that either. Had forgotten how the thousands flock to the seaside on a sunny Bank Holiday Monday and that some geezer writing in the sand arouses the curiosity that quickly builds into a crowd.



I got heckled but I also got a round of applause on completion and, standing afterwards, thinking and photographing, I listened to a six year old explain to her mystified Dad what my poem meant. My faith in the young is intact.


I carried on. Photographed the finished carving.Watched the returning tide wash it away. Started work on the fourth draft to be recarved the following day. Working with nature to recycle my words.


And then on to Sheringham Little Theatre for the world's first Poetry Jumble Sale. A new concept very much springing from the look at recycling and the possible links with poetry. Here was the arena for people to donate their unwanted or unsuccessful words and phrases for others to recycle. Star attraction of the day were the words edited out of Roger McGough's new book for Penguin, some Japanese text from Adrian Mitchell's Tokyo premiere, bits of Clare Crossman's discarded lithographs and a list of 19 remarkably unused phrases from the poet John Coldwell. This was a non-monetary event: bidders used their own unused and no longer neededs - poems/books/words/phrases/whatever. Some of the poets in the audience worked on poems there and then from bits won in auction or following on from the preceding Poetry Bingo workshop.


Young Poets Network