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On poetry and dandelions

Right now I'm working my way through Brute Neighbors, an anthology of poetry and prose devoted to the intersection of the natural and urban (primarily Chicago) environments that was recently jointly published by DePaul Uninversity's Humanities Center, Poetry Institute and Institute for Nature & Cutlure. Interesting work throughout. I was particularly struck by this passage from Mike Puican's poem "The Day is 7:03 AM, the Smoking Smart Car":

Emptiness is primed with slate blues
                  and maroons,
          fierce wills of dandelions

that brighten cracks in the sidewalks.

Our lawn has been herbicide-free for the past three years, to avoid weedkiller getting anywhere near our vegetable garden, strawberry plants and blueberry bushes. Gradually, without herbicide the bluegrass is being overrun by heartier natives, particularly clover and dandelions. (Which makes me realize how artificial the typical suburban lawn is. Left on its own, the grass probably wouldn't have a chance.) But I still don't want the dandelions to spread, which means I have to pry each plant out by its roots with a long-stemmed weeding tool, a task which gets more difficult each year. I had my latest dandelion-prying mission yesterday, after which I can heartily attest to the accuracy of Puican's "fierce wills" observation. I pulled out one whose root was over a foot long - that one certainly had a fierce will to live. And the ones whose roots snapped off will undoubtedly return.

Given that dandelions are usually considered an unsightly nuisance, I also like his idea that they can "brighten cracks in the sidewalks." Set against a drab gray sidewalk, I suppose the vivid yellow can indeed be a lively positive, even though I don't appreciate the sight of them in my lawn. All a matter of context, I guess.

May 9, 2011 in Books, Personal | Permalink


Or near our daughter who runs around in that yard. I think that's the most important reason to go herbicide free.

Posted by: Julie at May 9, 2011 11:28:11 AM

We've been the same way for the same reasons for 20+ years in this house (except the FOUR times in one year that a lawn service go the address wrong and treated/seeded/feeded our lawn, ultimately free for us). I don't think dandelions are actually native to North America, but the leaves are edible, so since you have them chemical free, toss them into your salad.

Posted by: Paul at May 9, 2011 6:11:39 PM

Native was probably the wrong term. Then again, at some point doesn't a prodigious transplant ultimately become native? Or at least naturalized?

Posted by: Pete at May 10, 2011 8:24:32 AM