For Laure-Anne Bosselaar, the former poet laureate of Santa Barbara, writing poetry and editing poetry anthologies comes about as naturally as breathing. She’s been at it for decades now, and her latest anthology may well be the one that’s read the most often. While You Wait: A Collection by Santa Barbara County Poets is published by Santa Barbara–based Gunpowder Press, and although there are physical copies of the book available both for purchase and at the public library, the work’s primary manifestation is a website, whileyouwait.org, that’s accessible through QR codes that will be popping up on posters in doctor’s waiting rooms and on buses all over town in coming weeks.
Originally conceived as an alternative to those well-thumbed stacks of National Geographic, Ladies’ Home Journal, Sunset, and Highlights for Children that have been the mainstays of waiting rooms since time immemorial, While You Wait took a turn for the digital when the pandemic imposed severe restrictions on what surfaces could circulate in public spaces. That’s when Chryss Yost, co-editor of Gunpowder Press with David Starkey, began thinking about QR codes and what they could do to connect individuals with literature while on the go. In partnership with Sansum Clinic, which is celebrating a century of health care in Santa Barbara, and with the help of the County Office of Arts & Culture and the MTA, Yost hatched a plan to provide QR-assisted access to the work of 80 poets throughout not only the various waiting rooms, but also on the public transportation that many people take to reach them. For Bosselaar, this freedom to include multiple examples of work by each author, and to have the poems cross-indexed for easier access, meant that her dream of a flexible anthology could be realized. As she observed of the various emotional experiences one might have in a doctor’s waiting room, or even on the bus, “they’re all different, right? There’s a whole range, and no matter where they are in that process, they might find a poem that connects for them.”