B Square Elsewhere: Garbage Collectors in Bloomington, Indiana

On Jan. 3, 2019 the Haywood Library (in Haywood, California) tweeted a link to a poem by Philip Appleman called “To the Garbage Collectors in Bloomington, Indiana, the First Pickup of the New Year.”

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Screenshot of Tweet from Hayward Library with link to Appleman’s poem.

The library’s “poem of the day” for the third day of the year is from a collection, published a couple of decades ago, called “New and Selected Poems, 1956-1996.”

It is reprinted on the Poetry Foundation’s website collection with the permission of the University of Arkansas Press.

The third stanza reveals Clark Street, a north-south spur off 3rd Street on Bloomington’s east side (a couple blocks west of the 45/46 Bypass), as the poet’s geographic perspective on the garbage collectors:

Clark Street maples wave
their silhouettes against the red, and through
the twiggy trees, I see a solid chunk
of garbage truck, and stick-figures of men,
like windup toys, tossing little cans—
and running.

According to the Poetry Foundation’s biography of him, Appleman was born in Indiana in 1926 and is Professor Emeritus in the Department of English at Indiana University, Bloomington.

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The red place mark indicates Clark Street.

The Poetry Foundation’s biography says Appleman holds degrees from Northwestern University, the University of Michigan, and the University of Lyon, and is a recognized expert on the life and work of Charles Darwin.

How much garbage does the city of Bloomington collect in its “clattering cans” every year?

The solid waste collection data available on the city of Bloomington’s website does not stretch back before 1996, the era of Appleman’s verse.

The numbers show an overall downward trend in tonnage from 2004, the first year data is available. The figure for 2013 appears to reflect some kind of an anomaly, possibly with a known explanation. It warrants a followup inquiry with the city. bloomington indiana solid waste collection