Discarded Post-it Poetry: An Idea That Sticks

We met in the most unexpected way. And while I guess great love affairs do often spring from the auspiciously unusual, I’d suspect none involve quite so much dog poop as this.

In the thick of Sunset Boulevard, just a hint from The Standard hotel, there’s a little dog park chiseled into a hill, accessible by two sets of stairs guarded at their very top by a blue-painted guitar standing sentinel at the entrance. Egyptian mummies are painted all along this guitar and on a warm, early morning in June I imagined that looking at the guitar was about as creatively inspired as I’d get while my dog sniffed around for the perfect spot to uh … go. Turns out, his nose sensed something I never could.

After fifteen minutes roaming the park, it was at the top of the staircase where he found his designated space for bodily relief—tryna make “poo spot” sound fancy—and that’s when I saw it. A note, stuck to a lamp-post on Sunset with all the crumpled-up charm of a bow-tied pug on the Fourth of July. “Hey Love,” the Post-it read, “You seem upset at nothing in particular. Yell at me. Really! It’s okay. I wont mind.” Then it was signed with something that looked like “sob.” (It was.)

Within seconds I posted a picture of the Post-it to my Instagram—”Who did this?” I asked in the caption—and within minutes was told the epistle had been inked by the gentle pen of sob. He’s the writer behind @discardedpostitpoetry, who affixes Post-it love poems around West Hollywood like a Banksy of the gorgeously written word. My own words could never do his justice, so let’s have the poetic man himself tell you about his work … 

Melissa: How did you come up with the idea for Discarded Post-It Poetry?

sob: The story itself is pretty unromantic. More or less a collection of circumstances—an artistic evolution based on consequences.

So, I wrote a rough draft for a novel last year. Just a quick jaunt into my mind that took me 10 days to write. I’m used to screenwriting so it was my first exploration into true prose; however, when I went back to start re-writing [or, what I refer to as “directing” the book (i.e. putting in more of a perspective, shaping characters, choosing the lens and color, symbols, texture, etc.)] I quickly realized I needed some practice economizing words. Essentially, how can I make one word mean 20 things every single time I choose a word?

That thought lingered in my mind for a month or two until I saw a New York Times article on Instagram poets. I thought to myself, “… That’s kind of interesting. I could probably do that. I don’t like the idea of just writing it on some app though, everyone seems to do that. I don’t see too many organic things. What about something handwritten? I wonder …”

Why Post-its?

sob: I used to draft texts or Facebook posts, lists and thoughts on Post-its quickly. Just an idea or, well, the normal things people write on Post-its. So, back to my internal thoughts …

“I wonder … what would it be like to find a crumpled up Post-It that was meant for the trash? Piecing together this un-lived life? Or the embarrassing (two Rs) thoughts that were never meant to be read? Or had been read and rejected? That’s kind of interesting … Maybe I can leave them around town, too? … that works. Let’s try it!”

So, I created the page. Wrote one. Took a picture. Posted it. And, off we went! It was originally called “discardedpostits” but for some reason I thought having “tits” at the end might be a little awkward for some, so I changed it a few hours later.

As a side-note, I also think there was something about the anonymity that appealed to me. Finding validation among strangers isn’t easy to do, so initially I told NO ONE about it, for several months. It was pretty exhilarating to have this secret site that kept growing fairly quickly. I could write anything I wanted and leave it anywhere. I could be whoever I wanted to be, which gave me the freedom to be … well … me.

How do you decide where to place your poetry? And do you have a few favorite spots?

Embarrassingly (two Rs), it’s mostly convenience. I genuinely wish I had the energy to run around town posting them in the craziest, coolest places, but the truth is that if I walk about 100 feet from my door, I’m immediately on The Sunset Strip. So, that’s where I put them … Some stay up for a week or so, but most are taken down before the day is out. The Comedy Store is pretty cool about leaving my sarcastic ones up with subtle digs at loud fans, and it’s fun to put self-help style, cringeworthy words of happiness next to a Ferrari in the middle of ritzy Sunset Plaza or Beverly Hills. Then, down by all the rocker clubs, it’s cool to leave some songs of regret, crusty and torn, near some recently washed pool, no doubt previously occupied by a pile of whiskey-laced vomit.

The worst part about the site, though, is that it’s almost pointless to put them up since 70% of the screen is usually taken up by the Post-It itself! And I’d love to just leave it on the sidewalk in a really interesting place, but then the picture is essentially just the post-it with cement or asphalt around it without any context. It’s a difficult balance to strike so usually I don’t really venture too far to put them up.

Favorite spots, however? I love Shakespeare Bridge and wish I had more time to drive out there to put a few up. I also like tossing them along Hollywood Blvd. next to some half-forgotten star. I leave them, sometimes, up Runyon Canyon. I also leave them in used bookstores a lot … There’s also an electric box on the corner of Crescent Heights and Sunset which I pass literally every single day—one that’s usually already tagged with some #positivevibes by WRDSMTH. I used to like to leave them there, but I always thought there might be some weird territorial thing and I didn’t want to be disrespectful. So, I stick to the Sunset Strip. Chateau Marmont, Standard Hotel, Sunset Tower, Eveleigh, Comedy Store, Sunset Plaza, Viper Room, Book Soup, Whiskey-a-go-go, Rainbow Room— which … woah, now that I think about it, is technically my “territory” … Holy shit, that’s kind of dope.

What’s the craziest thing you’ve heard about where your Post-its have ended up?

Oh what a great question!!! I was tagged recently by someone who had taken one off of a post on Sunset during their trip out here and brought it back with them to Germany. Other than that, I don’t really know what happens to them once I put them up. My guess is a street-cleaner just rips it off and throws it away. I’d be really interested to know, though, if anyone else has taken them.

To me, this is a brilliant juxtaposition of poetry and street art, with none of the illegal ramifications sometimes associated with work of that genre. Do you see Discarded Post-it Poetry that way? 

That’s very perceptive! I’m not sure if it’s legal or not, but even if a cop saw me putting one up, I’m sure they wouldn’t trip too hard. I guess it’s technically litter if I leave them on the sidewalk—but if I put it on a post?? Who knows. They’re so easily discardable I doubt anyone would put up a fuss. The real question is if it’s street art without the risk? (Obviously, I’d say, “Yes,” but you know what I mean … Some could argue the real risk and artistic integrity is tied to the illegality and size/scope of the presentation, regardless of the heartfelt risk one takes in the words themselves … I forgot what my point was… Yes, I think it’s street art and it’s sweet of you to recognize that … [sheepishly swats at the air and runs away].)

If you’re willing to reveal it … Are you a full-time writer? If not, what do you do?

I mean, yes and no. I went to grad school for directing but fell into writing out of compulsion. I was an English major in undergrad so I have those roots and it takes a ton of money and time to make a movie, where all it takes is a pen and paper to write. I’m currently trying to sell some scripts and get attachments for a movie I’m directing while working on the second draft of the aforementioned novel while also doing a ton of freelance film-related work. Basically, the old Hollywood Hustle.

What inspires you to create your poetry? Any particular authors whose work you really admire?

Everything is an inspiration. I get hit constantly with little thoughts that I jot down into Notes on my phone, then I’ll try to sit down for a few hours once or twice a week to write them all into a longer word document and re-shape them. In addition, I’ll force myself to write a dozen or so new ones while I’m there and have the time.

As far as the authors, my lifelong obsessions are James Joyce and Shakespeare. But beyond that we have the other modernists, T.S. Eliot, Virginia Woolf, W.B. Yeats, etc. I love the Romantics: Blake, Shelley, Wordsworth, etc. Let’s see off the top of my head without cheating and looking at the bookshelves 12 inches from me—Carroll. Pynchon. Mark Z. Danielewski!, Fitzgerald, Austen, Auden, Donna Tartt, (OK, cheating now) … Eh— you get the idea. Everyone. I wish I read more philosophy. Where was I?

You’re an incredibly prolific poet, nearing 2,000 Instagram posts with original work. What do you do on days when the words just aren’t coming? 

The words never stop coming. People have asked me about writer’s block forever—and I’m almost ashamed to say that I don’t have an answer for it. I used to joke that I’d kill to have writer’s block but I really do have enough stories and ideas to last a lifetime.

Like I said before, everything is an inspiration. You just have to enjoy following a particular thought to its logical, emotional conclusion. Look at a pen and think about who owned it before, what story did she write? Or the person who made it, or pulled the lever on the machine that made it. Think of their grandmother. Or their grandmother as a little girl. That time she found a puppy. The puppy’s relationship to the color Blue. It just goes on and on and on … Every one of those is a novel. Everything is a story. Everything is a poem. Just look at a pen.

You’re based in L.A. Do you think the eccentricities of the city have any influence on your poetry?

Maybe … I don’t know, it’s definitely a FASCINATING city but it usually doesn’t find its way into my work too often. I obviously have a few screenplays about LA and maybe a poem or two here or there but the underlying metaphor of Los Angeles is relatively played out. It’s remained mostly unchanged since a few crazy indie filmmaking entrepreneurs came out here in search of abundant sunshine and freedom from patent laws back in 1905ish. Nevertheless, since buried under that unchanged metaphorical mentality is a universality hidden in humanity, I guess it will always be a source of inspiration, since it’s been so beautifully framed betwixt desert and ocean, farmland and mountains with a spiderweb of tectonic faults constantly shuddering underneath it, promising to explode at any moment if we just stay in the right place for long enough, waiting for the right time to get lucky.

You write a lot about love (both of the lost and found variety), and your words seem deeply personal. Have you ever had an ex or current love find your work and realize it’s about them?

Ha! My exes don’t know about the site as far as I know—but yes, my current special lady-friend has asked on numerous occasions why I wrote what I wrote. She’s supportive though, and understands the underlying point of the site (i.e. embarrassing words that ought not be shared).

Staying on the topic of love, do you think love can be expressed within the space of a single Post-it?

No.

Well—yes. Just write, “Love.” That word alone is loaded enough that anyone can bury as much underneath the word as they want. And, on the backdrop of a crumpled up Post-It it obviously takes on different implications …

Well—no. Just “Love” on a Post-It is pretty fuckin’ lame.

Or, well, yeah, maybe just a heart…. No, that’s way more lame. And I can’t draw hearts.

So…. No… Probably not.

I realize you really just meant the possibility of a “Love poem in such a small space” to which the answer is obviously, “No,” unless you’re either delusional, juvenile, overly optimistic, being sarcastic, or just not a very good poet who might too-quickly respond, “Yes!”

But no. Probably not….

What’s next for Discarded Post-it Poetry? A book? A massive Post-it billboard on Sunset Blvd.?

I’d love to do a book of them and sort of always planned on it but I don’t see the money in it. I also figured it could one day double as an advertising page for restaurants or businesses looking to widen their brand in exchange for some free shit. But I wouldn’t want to be too disrespectful to my snowflakes. If I start putting up some bullshit like, “Bright teeth make me smile!” next to some toothpaste, they’d know something was up—so the poems would have to be three-times as good if I was to use it as advertisement just to appease both sides of the coin.

If you had to end this interview with a Post-it, what would it say?

“I’m sorry for writing

So much about

Myself—

It’s just that I am

Narcissistic and

My hands are yuge.”

Melissa Marni is a Southern California-based writer and the founder/president of little word studio. If you really want, you can follow her on Instagram here.