Compost poetry and the 'magic at work in the rotten stench'

Compost poetry
CC BY 2.0 Joi Ito/flickr

Compost is a funny thing. For the uninitiated, or the uninterested, it is at best a clever form of recycling, and at worst a disgusting, smelly and unpleasant alternative to sending your trash to landfill. For those of us who have the bug though, it can be everything from compost as animal husbandry to a form of probiotics for the soil. So it's really little wonder that compost inspires art. I've written about compost poetry before in the form of Lee Hay's living will begging that we compost his corpse.

And I've come across another great example of compost poetry that celebrates the magic in our muck. When I wrote about a great video on how to make compost extractions, reader Lucas Land shared a link to his Ode to Compost poem that he wrote on his blog, What Would Jesus Eat. Now I'll be the first to say that I am not much of a poetry reader, but there really is something beautifully reflective about this verse. (Reposted here with thanks – everything on What Would Jesus Eat falls under a Creative Commons license.):

Ode to Compost

Leaf and rind sit silent
atop the pile of waste
lifeless leftovers lingering
piled together in an organic grave

still sits the mound
quietly surveying the hum of activity
planting, watering, tending, milking, feeding, pruning,
harvesting, dancing, laughing, weeping, hoping

productivity surrounds the pile of refuse
restlessness judges the contemplation of the silent observer
yet in the inner life of that monastic pile
deep in the caverns of trash
the wet sponge of death is wrung out
hyssop and sour wine mixed with goat's milk and honey

beyond knowing and seeing
the pile teems and turns with
societies of decomposition
This civilization of death and decay
brings life

There is magic at work in the rotten stench
There is mystery to behold
in the watchman of the farm

Of course the compost pedant in me would suggest that a "rotten stench" may be a sign that the pile has a little too much nitrogen and not enough carbon in it. But then again, maybe I should let the poet do his thing.

I'd love to know if anyone else is out there writing compost poetry. Feel free to share below.

This updated story was originally published in 2011

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