The gift of a poetree

Dear grateful reader,

There are many things I’m grateful for — my family, my home here in Alaska, the people who are helping my book find its way into the world. I’m thankful for good books, delicious meals shared with good friends, caring neighbors, a hot bath at the end of a hard day.

I’m also grateful for the people and organizations that support art in its many forms. Libraries. Performing arts centers. Nonprofit foundations that assist artists and writers. Together they all help make our world a more interesting place. Yet I mostly take them for granted, and when I do consider how much I appreciate their efforts, I am unable to think of a fitting way to say “Thank you!” except to maybe write a donation check or help with a community project.

But several of my friends recently linked to this website on Facebook, and I thought — now that’s gratitude! An anonymous artist in Scotland has been leaving paper/book sculptures at libraries and artist institutions. The first was a tree made of paper, dubbed a “poetree” and left as a gift at the Scottish Poetry Library. Attached was a note:

It started with your name @byleaveswelive and became a tree.… … We know that a library is so much more than a building full of books… a book is so much more than pages full of words.… This is for you in support of libraries, books, words, ideas….. a gesture (poetic maybe?)

More sculptures followed — a gramophone, a miniature theater, all made of ornately cut and shaped paper and secretly left at various institutions.

Reading about these anonymous gift, I was filled with such admiration. This artist clearly was not seeking fame or fortune. The gifts were given out of true generosity and gratitude.

Several years ago I heard Alaskan author John Straley speak at a conference. He said he writes poems and gives them to loved ones at Christmas. I was reminded that art can be personal and generous — it doesn’t have to always be about seeking an audience.




  • Very nice idea. Love the paper sculpture. I used to write storybooks for my children’s friends on their birthdays. The birthday child was the subject and I drew the illustrations too. I think I used colored paper and stapled them together. Maybe someone saved them.

  • Sue Mathis says:

    The paper sculptures are awesome! Some “lover of words” has been busy! They remind me of an intricately carved Oriental scene made from cork my brother gave me years ago. The time and care taken to make these pieces of art show the love of the artwork and the subject of each.