Road to Rhyme Paved with Green Intentions

Poetry contest winner
Kristen Gallo and "The Evil Plant"
Invasive species
"Air potato ain’t no side dish with a small brain when it takes over in your yard you got a bad pain"
CLEARWATER (2011-8-31) -

Those exotic species that threaten to take over natural Florida aren't just a nuisance - they're also the inspiration behind some serious poetry. We take a listen to some local poets who bop on Burmese pythons, diss kudzu and bash Brazilian pepper.

The folks at the Tampa Bay Estuary Program weren't sure what to expect when they put out word they'd like to set the fight against Florida's invasive species to a beat - via the spoken word. What they got were nearly 100 entries. They wax poetic over the air potato, wail over walking catfish and muse over melaleuca - the "paper trees" that litter the Everglades.

One even lays down the rap on these unwanted plants and critters.

"Australian pines should beat it over to the outback
Walking catfish get your boots on and don't come back"

"Lizzy D" smoothes the hem of her sensible business suit, adjusts the reading glasses on the end of her nose and starts laying out rhymes against foreign plants in "Native Flava."

"Air potato ain’t no side dish with a small brain
when it takes over in your yard you got a bad pain"

Cuban tree frogs should go back to live with Castro
mole crickets ice your lawn in no time flat - true that, yo

Well, you might have guessed by now that hip-hop doesn't pay the bills at Lizzy D's place. When she isn't busting out the rhymes, Liz Drayer moonlights as an arbitration lawyer. Her "crib" is a cool slice of suburban Clearwater called Clubhouse Estates. Naturally, it backs up to a golf course.

Her road to rhyme was paved with "green" intentions. After law school, Drayer worked in Washington for the Environmental Protection Agency, and knows her way around an invasive species or two.

"You look out here across the golf course, and it's lined with Brazilian Pepper, which are one of the prime offenders," she says. "So I know the threat they pose to the environment, to the bay, and since I do write stories and poetry, this had my name all over it."

Even though Drayer was raised in an era more predisposed to the Jefferson Airplane than Jay-Z, she lauds rap as a "potent art form" that can get her message across.

Not so with little Kristen Gallo. She'll stick to iambic pentameter, thank you very much.

The remarkably poised 11-year-old from Odessa composed "The Evil Plant," an ode to the tropical air potato.

"Winding, twisting, rapidly growing, the air potato strikes a full-grown oak tree.
Wrapping its sickening green leaves around the oak's thick trunk.

"Moving closer and closer to the canopy
Like a predator about to kill its juicy prey"

Even though the sixth-grader has written nature poems before, Kristen really doesn't consider herself a nature girl.

I asked her if she likes green stuff, like frogs and toads. Her answer: "No. I like pink."

She says the $250 prize for best poem in the Junior category will go to several worthy causes.

"I'm going to give 10 percent of it to my church, and the rest, I'm planning to donate some to the Tampa Bay Estuary Program," she says, "and I don't know what I'll do with the rest."

I asked her mom, Tammy, about her daughter's invasive inspiration.

"We, all in our family, care about the earth," says Tammy Gallo. "My husband and I both teach our kids what the dangers are. And so when they hear things like this, that the trees are dying, that touches their heart. Because I think we've taught them that's important We all need to care about that."

The seriousness of the message is not lost on Christine Jamesson of Clearwater The winner of best rhyme in the adult category expanded on Kristin's message, with "A Trio of Evil."

"The Bufo Toad all warty and thick
Secretes a poison that makes pets sick.
Grayish-Brown with a slimy belly of yellow
He is a most repulsive fellow

"Released in 1936 to control pests on sugar cane
He has now become a Florida pain
Looks harmless enough with no knobs on his head
But a lick of his skin leaves poor Fido dead"

"The three creatures I picked were, I was very passionate about," says Jamesson. "My husband fishes all the time, so we were aware of the lionfish and what a danger they can become to the natural species, and the toads and the pythons and everything - it's just so horrible that they're overtaking and they've become such a danger."

We'll leave you with the finale of "Native Flava" - which Drayer hopes will soon go "viral" on the Internet.

"Tear out your plants and trees if they don’t got no green card
you don’t want nothing but the natives in your FL yard

Invasive species wreck the forests and the water
We gotta stop those sneaky mothers at the border"



Here's their full poems:

(To hear the poems recited in their creator's voices, click on the "Listen to Full Audio" icon below.


"The Evil Plant"

By Kristen Gallo,
Odessa

Winding, twisting, rapidly growing,

the Air Potato strikes

a full grown Oak tree,

wrapping its sickening green leaves

around the tree's thick trunk,

moving closer and closer

to the canopy,

like a predator about to kill

its juicy prey.

The plant doubles its size,

squeezing out the life

of the helpless tree.

Finally, the Air Potato

reaches the canopy.

It secures for itself

a tough barrier of leaves

on top of the oak.

Hogging all of the sunlight;

The oak becomes weaker

and weaker.

Unable to perform photosynthesis,

it is slowly inching to its death.

The Air Potato finally covers the

helpless tree,

and sucks all the life

out of it.

The Oak tree dies,

by suffocation

and a lack of food.

The Air Potato has done its job.

It keeps growing and growing,

and killing and killing.

What can we do

to stop this evil plant?


"Native Flava"

By Liz Drayer,
Clearwater

Air potato ain’t no side dish with a small brain
when it takes over in your yard you got a bad pain

Cuban tree frogs should go back to live with Castro
mole crickets ice your lawn in no time flat - true that, yo

you don’t got no business messin’ with no skunkvine
send it to Pepe Le Pew - that Frenchie he don’t mind

Australian pines should beat it over to the outback
walking catfish get your boots on and don’t come back

tell them black spiny tail iguanas get your scales in gear
make that Brazilian pepper do the samba outta here

don’t be dumpin’ your pet fish in lakes that’s gotta stop
e-verify the reptiles you buy at the pet shop

tear out your plants and trees if they don’t got no green card
you don’t want nothing but the natives in your FL yard

invasive species wreck the forests and the water
we gotta stop those sneaky mothers at the border

"Trio of Evil"

By Christine Jamesson
Clearwater

Lovely but deadly the Lionfish have spread their range
Released partly thanks to a Hurricane
Once numbers of only three
Their masses are now seen from RI to Belize

Divers and fishermen have to fight back
And hold Lionfish derbies for wads of cash
All have high hopes to contain the creature
And keep it as it was- a rare aquarium feature

Bufo Toad all warty and thick
Secretes a poison that makes pets sick
Grayish-Brown with a slimy belly of yellow
He is a most repulsive fellow

Released in 1936 to control pests on sugar cane
He has now become a Florida pain
Looks harmless enough with no knobs on his head
But a lick of his skin leaves poor Fido dead

Burmese pythons - threatened in their native land
Are now a serious threat to man
Unchecked they could cover 1/3 of the states
And make pets or a child suffer a terrible fate

They can lay up to 100 eggs a year
And make meals of the sweet and rare Key Deer
They are unhampered now, sunning and well fed
We must end their reign and put a price on their head

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