Shauna Darling Robertson: Guerrilla Poetry

Guerrilla Poetry

I love being surprised by poetry, whether that means finding a poem in a fresh voice, an unusual style, a different format or an unexpected place.

In my book Saturdays at the Imaginarium there’s a poem called ‘The Poetry Guerrilla’ featuring a mysterious character who sneaks poems into strange locations for people to find – inside a boiled egg, etched onto an aspirin, etc. I was thrilled when a London school got in touch to say that the poem inspired them to create their own guerrilla poetry project for National Poetry Day, which got me thinking about some of the wonderful things I’ve come across since I started getting interested in poetry guerrilla-ing. Here are a few of them, in the hope that one or two might inspire some guerrilla tactics of your own!

Poetry ‘bombing’ What if cities that have suffered wartime bombings could experience a different sort of ‘bombing’ – one where poems rain down instead of missiles? Chilean art collective Casagrande staged five ‘Poetry Rain’ projects in different cities, as a protest against war. In this video you can see what happened when 100,000 poems were dropped from a helicopter over London’s Southbank. “But I don’t have access to a helicopter,” I hear you say. Okay, so how might you adapt this concept to do something on a smaller scale?

Pay with a poem Did you know that you can pay for a coffee with a handwritten poem on World Poetry Day each March? Coffee company Julius Meinl kicked off the idea in 2013 and it went global, with people around the world penning limericks for lattes and elegies for espressos. Here’s a video from the 2016 event. No need to wait for coffee time though… how else might you turn poems into valuable currency?

The street sign poet Stroll around London’s Kentish Town and you might see ‘the parachute of intrigue’, ‘the girl made of mist’ or ‘the heart is a crazy bus driver’. “There is a street sign outside our place on Islip Street,” explains local poet Mark Waddell. “It’s there to make folks think, chuckle and ruminate.” Discover more at Mark Waddell’s blog.

Poem in Your Pocket Day Poem in Your Pocket Day takes place every year in the USA (April 29th in 2021). The idea began in New York City, then spread across the USA and into Canada. UK, anyone? The basic idea is to carry a poem in your pocket and share it with everyone you meet that day. More info and ideas here.

Wear a poem Miami-based artist Augustina Woodgate sewed paper tags carrying lines of poetry into second-hand clothes for sale in charity shops. Buy a t-shirt, find a poem! You can read more in this news article. If you’re working with kids, needles and sneaking into shops are probably out. But there are lots of ways to ‘wear a poem’, right?

Edible poems Guerillas need to keep their strength up, and what better food than poetry! Poetry Digest, edited by Swithun Cooper and Chrissy Williams, was a magazine that iced poems onto cakes – and invited the Young Poets Network to join in. Find out more and read the poems (which, luckily, were photographed before being gobbled) at The Young Poets Network.

That’s all for now (though I do have more if you’re interested!). I’d love to hear about any guerrilla poetry projects you might create or come across. Drop me a line or tag me on twitter at @ShaunaDarRob,

PS. If you’re going to get into poetry guerrilla-ing, do keep your common sense about you. Stay safe, respect others and the natural environment, and never confuse a poetry guerrilla with a poetry gorilla.

Shauna Darling Robertson

Shauna Darling Robertson’s poems for adults and children have been performed by actors, displayed on buses, used as song lyrics, turned into comic art, made into short films and published in a variety of books and magazines. Her first solo collection for children is Saturdays at the Imaginarium (Troika, 2020). A second, You Are Not Alone, written with support from Arts Council England, is forthcoming (Troika, 2022). @ShaunaDarRob

Shauna Darling Robertson: Children’s Poetry in Translation

Children’s Poetry in Translation

A few years ago I subscribed to Modern Poetry in Translation (MPT). The magazine was started by Ted Hughes and Daniel Weissbort in 1965 so it’s older than me – just! Clare Pollard is the current editor and each issue has a ‘focus’ section which hones in on topics from dead women poets to Japan, from extinction to the Caribbean, and from the Maghreb to LGBTQ+ poetry.

The Summer 2015 issue focused on world poetry for children, with new translations of poems from Russia, Taiwan, Samoa, Mexico, Eritrea and more. I still have my copy and I’d love to share a couple of its treasures.

Toon Tellegen is one of Holland’s best-known poets, with a long list of awards to his name. I have two of his adult collections, Raptors and About Love and About Nothing Else. Philip Fried, founding editor of The Manhattan Review wrote, “Tellegen’s poems are parables for grown-up children. Their world is stripped-down, urgent, playful, quirky, familiar as children’s games yet strangely disorienting.” I hadn’t realised that Tellegen is also a popular and prolific children’s author until a Wikipedia search revealed a list of around 40 children’s titles!

The poems featured in MPT are from a sublime book called I Wish, which pairs 33 poems prompted by the statement ‘I wish’ (translated by David Colmer) with a gallery of portraits by artist Ingrid Godon. The faces stare out with strange and serious expressions alongside Tellegen’s outstanding confessions of yearning. Sailor wishes to be music so he’ll be heard; Anton wishes courage was something you could buy; Marie and Rose wish to be the only people who don’t know about death, and Marcel wishes to have an alibi for every circumstance. Here’s Carl’s wish –

You can find out more and watch a video on the publisher’s website at

Wojciech Bonowicz has published eight poetry collections in Poland. His poems have appeared in English translation in various magazines but I haven’t been able to track down a translated full collection. There are just a few prose-poem fragments by Bonowicz in MPT, translated by Elżbieta Wójcik-Leese.

The fragments, referred to as ‘stories’, take the form of brief observations and aphorisms and come from a collection called Bajki Misia Fisia, which I think translates as the fairy tales of a bear called Fisia. “These stories are very short because ‘Nutty Teddy’ can concentrate only for a very short time,” says the introduction!

The fragments are sometimes funny, sometimes sad and are both strange and insightful. Here’s one of the longer ones (available online at

Gabriela Cantú Westendarp was born in the north of Mexico and is a poet, teacher and translator. She has six poetry books, one of which – Poemas del Árbol / Poems from a Tree – is for younger readers. Sadly I can’t find any record of an English translation, but two poems translated by Lawrence Schimel were featured in MPT. Both come from the book’s second half, called ‘Claudio Discovers the World’, in which the poems are dialogues between mother and son. Here’s one (also available at

In the years since that issue of MPT I’ve often fantasized about editing an anthology of children’s poetry in translation, though I have no idea if such a thing would be commercially viable! Still, in the fantasy I’m pacing the corridors of the Bologna Book Fair rooting out poets from all over the world, spending hours pouring over the International Children’s Digital Library (an incredible-looking resource of children’s literature in multiple languages), and – best of all – making a chance discovery of some amazing writer in the Pacific Islands and being sent to track them down. Poets, eh – such dreamers!

Shauna Darling Robertson

Shauna Darling Robertson’s poems for adults and children have been performed by actors, displayed on buses, used as song lyrics, turned into comic art and made into short films. Shauna has two chapbooks for adults and a collection for children, Saturdays at the Imaginarium (Troika, 2020) which explores the human imagination. She’s currently working on a new collection for teen/YA readers on the theme of mental health: You Are Not Alone, with support from Arts Council England. @ShaunaDarRob