Cute little boxes decorated with a cartoon house can be spied all around Benicia. A peek inside reveals a literary treat: Free poems for anyone to take—delightful morsels of works by Benicia’s own creative writers. These are Benicia’s “poem homes.”
Benicia’s former poet laureate, Ronna Leon, established the poem homes in 2010, and the program has since thrived. It publishes over 70 to 80 poems per edition, released two to three times per year. Since multiple copies of each poem are placed inside the poem homes, the program distributes between 5,000 and 6,000 pages of poems annually.
“I like making the poems available to folks in the community who might not otherwise get the chance to read a poem and discover something surprising or inspiring or thought provoking, or all three,” explains Jady Montgomery, a volunteer who oversees the program. “I also like making the homes available to poets. For some it is a way to put their work out in public for the first time, take a chance, test the waters, so-to-speak. For other seasoned or published poets, it's a way to make a contribution to the literary arts of our community.” Sponsored by the First Tuesday Poetry Group, the program welcomes poets with all levels of experience. Poets submit their work via e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Once accepted, the poems are printed by Paper Tiger Printing for the next edition. Renee Jordan of Jordan Real Estate sponsors the printing costs. Through this simple process, poetry becomes more accessible to Benicians—readers and poets.
New contributor, Jen Bougher, tried it. She’s written privately most of her life, and is currently taking writing classes. One class in particular inspired her to make her work more public. “This was a way to see how my work is received outside of my friends and family,” she explained.
On the other end, readers’ lives are enriched. “The idea that we could quietly look at something and read it for ourselves and experience it in our hearts … Poetry does this. Poetry often makes people have a second of stillness, a second to consider the deeper meaning of life,” says Leon.
CURRENT POETRY HOME LOCATIONS
(subject to change)
• Southampton Community Park
• Benicia High School
• Benicia Public Library
• Jordan Real Estate on First Street