Hybrid Hibiscus

Chapbook, Taylor Leedahl, JackPine Press,  jackpinepress.com, $30

They say that singing to your  houseplants can help them grow,  but what happens when you write a  chapbook with them? Perhaps a more  pertinent question would be, “How  do you go about collaborating with a  plant?” Taylor Leedahl approached her  household hibiscus with tissue paper  and a pencil to get its contributions  for this limited-edition chapbook. The  resulting leaf rubbings — scattered  throughout  Hybrid Hibiscus — are  more than just decoration; this is a  conversation between Leedahl and her  plant, and though the hibiscus always  replies through the same method, it  seems to be saying different things. Leedahl’s side of the exchange is a  poem — or maybe several. There are  no clear divisions here. Hybrid Hibiscus  might be one long poem, or it might  be many poem scraps. Handwritten  fragments of verse mingle with  classifications from botany texts as  Leedahl explores (generally speaking)  inter-species evolution: her own  development, as well as her that of her  plant. Leedahl was a regular participant  in Random Acts of Poetry: a yearly,  week-long celebration of the poem  that included random street readings  to surprise passers-by. Reading  Hybrid  Hibiscus is probably close to what it  would’ve been like to witness one of  those poetry sneak attacks. The hibiscus  never saw it coming. (Scott Bryson)

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