poetry you can walk on

September 18, 2018

It’s been a while since we mentioned poetry walks (we’re especially partial to the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Walk at the downtown Bellingham Public Library) so here’s another one for the list. A first-time competition in Lansing, Michigan, yielded 76 entries and eight winning poems, which were subsequently etched into Lansing city sidewalks.

Each community seems to have a slightly different approach to the challenge of getting the poems onto the sidewalk (see a list of poetry walk links in the right sidebar). Lansing used a high-tech, computer driven etching system. See another photo and more information in The State News, and visit Lansing Sidewalk Poetry Competition on Facebook.

Whether it’s a coffee house, a library, a theatre, a bus, or someone’s kitchen, poets are constantly seeking out new places to give voice to their words. In Michigan, Terry Wooten has created a stone circle — a triple ring of 88 large boulders — where poets and audience gather under the stars each week during the summer for poetry, storytelling, and music. Hosted by Wooten, classic and original poems “must be memorized and recited by heart.” For more information, Terry Wooten’s Stone Circle is online and on Facebook. There is also a Stone Circle documentary by Patrick Pfister and you can watch the trailer on Facebook.

temporary poetry walk

January 28, 2015

MSU poetry chalking

In these days of multitudinous journals, readings and instant self-publishing, there are many ways to get your poems in the public eye and ear. Here’s another: poetry chalking. For the fall semester, the Poetry Center at Michigan State University “arranges a poetry chalking on MSU’s campus to meet students and spread the joy of poetry.” They provide the chalk as well as an assortment of poems, though students are invited to write their own.

Poets.org suggests, “Go one step beyond hopscotch squares and write a poem in chalk on your sidewalk!” Teacher Steve Peterson held a “chalk-a-bration” on the sidewalks of his small Iowa town with his 5th-grade students. Poet and teacher Justin Evans chalked poetry in Nevada with his Honors English students.

Caveat 1: Choose your sidewalk carefully; Danny Rowland, in Bath, England, irked local authorities with his political verse chalked on public walkways. Caveat 2: Choose your chalk carefully. Regular sidewalk chalk washes away easily, but other types of chalk may contain oil, which makes them resist removal. More here.

Happy chalking!