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Community Poetry

A year-long community poetry project in St. Louis Park, MinnesotaWhat do you get when you mix a love for words, people of all ages and backgrounds, and a mission to celebrate community?

Poetry, poetry, poetry!

Last night I joined over 100 others at the Our Town Favorite Poems Party to introduce the 2010-2011 St. Louis Park City/School Calendar.

Every year the calendar features community artwork. Photography and paintings have dominated it in the past. This year, however, poetry made its debut and what a stunning reflection of the culmination of activities led by our community poet, Diana Pecoraro.

Our Town, Verses & Voices was a year-long community poetry project and celebrated with the selection of 12 Favorite Poems and their submitters at a private reception on July 22, 2010.

Readers ranged from second graders like Quinn H. Whitlow who read his original award winning poem, "Unseen Secrets" where he hides his secrets "in the core of a brick and on the surface of a star," to senior citizens Florence Flugaur and Bob Ramsey who selected Robert Frost's endearing poem, "Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening."

A poem and the person who chose the poem are featured on each page of the calendar--a whole month to ponder the words, images, and impressions of each poem.

At the back of the calendar is a community renga. A renga is a traditional Japanese group poem that is shared writing. Each line of the poem is from a different member of the St. Louis Park community that includes children, parents, singles, elders, longtime residents, and newly arrived immigrants.

The renga was composed from lines from residents who participated in one of eight different workshops and were charged with creating lines about our city. Sights, sounds, and smells dominate the language.

I had the privilege to read this beautiful poem with Diane at the end of the program. One of my favorite lines was, "Raindrops talking like the Chinese language-tapping, snoring like bats."

Community poetry doesn't come along every day. It takes people who care, are driven, and are supported by the community at large. The Our Town: Verses & Voices was funded by grants from the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council through an appropriation from the Minnesota State Arts Board, as well as the St. Louis Park Community Foundation and the Park Nicollet Foundation.

If you're thinking of initiating poetry activities with a community poet in your "town," feel free to contact me and I'll get you connected with some great mentors!