Washington (pna) – Poet Ronald Mercedes
left his locked car in the parking lot of
his local coffee shop for only about ten
minutes, he said. But in that time, he
lost over a week’s worth of poetry. The
notorious poetry thieves had struck again
in what has become the longest streak of
poetry pilfering in D.C. history.

“I just couldn’t believe it,” Mercedes
said. “I had read the news reports, but I
thought it couldn’t happen to me. I just
pray that police can get my poems back.”

As with other recent poetry thefts, the
thieves smashed a window of Mercedes’ car
and grabbed the batch of poems that were
left, uncovered, on the passenger seat.

“It’s imperative that poets not leave
their poems uncovered and facing upwards
in their cars,” said detective Susan
Maverick, head of the task force assigned
to tracking down the poetry thieves.
“These people will stop at nothing if
they see a bunch of poems in broad

The recent rash of poetry thefts has
caused some D.C. residents to take
extraordinary measures to protect their

“I no longer carry paper copies of my
poems anywhere,” said Lydia Croyton. “I
used to take them to work with me, to the
park, to the grocery store, wherever. Now
I don’t feel safe. I had to take a flash
drive full of poems to the last poetry
workshop and display them by PowerPoint.
It was horrible.”

Detective Maverick stressed that poetry
theft carries stiff penalties and that her
office would be seeking the maximum once
the perpetrators are caught.

“We will catch these crooks,” Maverick
told reporters in a recent briefing. “It’s
just a matter of time.”

Since the robberies began, police have
been inundated with calls from concerned
citizens, forcing Maverick’s office to
devote more resources to the case.

“My impression is that everyone is
concerned, even the few who don’t write
poetry,” said John Bryson, head of the
Poetry Institute at Liberated University.
“Poets are starting to suspect their

Some are even reportedly resorting to
drastic measures, such as ceasing all
poetry writing.

“I figure if I don’t write it, they can’t
steal it,” said Josh Warner, a student at
Liberated. “Some of my friends are turning
off the poetry spigot as well.”

Maverick, though, urges residents not to
resort to such drastic lifestyle changes.
Instead, the detective says, residents
should follow the safety guidelines
released by her office earlier this week:

* never leave poems lying face up in
plain view in public
* never carry poems on your person
* do not self-identify as a poet
* remove pro-poetry bumper stickers from
automobiles, and do not wear t-shirts or
other clothing with poetic inscriptions
* consider transporting only digitized
versions of your poems to poetry events,
workshops, meetings, and readings

Maverick encourages members of the
public to report any leads, tips, or
suspicious behavior to its poetry theft
hotline: 1-800-SAV-POET.

–Jay Dougherty, pna

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Jay is an editor at PoetryCircle. He has been involved in independent literary publishing since the 80s, when he founded the little magazine Clock Radio, publishing Charles Bukowski, Tom Clark, Lyn Lifshin, Douglas Goodwin, and other well-known authors. He has taught English in universities in Germany and the United States.

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