September 15, 2011

Roadside Poetry

Earlier this week I lead my creative writing students through the creation of a four-line, twenty-characters-a-piece poem inspired by one of the four seasons. Why? Oh, because of this small little fantastically awesome thing that’s happening up in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, called Roadside Poetry. I’d stumbled upon RP's website and mission in August, and I immediately knew it was something I’d use in my classroom. I mean, a short poem, a challenging riddle-like form, a stretch of pavement, and four billboards? Surely one of those would get teenagers writing. It had worked for me.

The happy news is that my own submission to Roadside Poetry has been accepted for this autumn. In a few short days, the beginnings of 90,000 sets of eyes will drive past my verses and maybe, hopefully, read them, think about beauty instead of dinner, see the leaves instead of their cell phones, consider change as an image instead of a stress. Paul Carney, the coordinator of Roadside Poetry, said that he wanted people who ordinarily do not read or encounter poems to have access to moments like that. On this day, I cannot think of a more kind-hearted aim. We are all so busy, aren’t we? So burdened by finances and work pressures and family members who deserve more than we can give. A poem—a short, simple one that speaks about the natural world—can be a brief reprieve, if we let it. If we let it in.

Serendipitously, my husband and I, and all of my relatives on my dad’s side, are driving northwest in a few weeks for my cousin’s wedding. I was already looking forward to the trip. Crookston, two hours past Fergus Falls, is new country for me, and if you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that I make friends with a fresh landscape pretty easily. Now? Let’s just say October will be a good month. Paul told me the trees will be beautiful then. So I’ll take photos. Of the forests. The farms. The wide open spaces. And, you know, um, those four shiny billboards that end in my name.

:)

19 comments:

  1. Congrats on the Roadside Poetry submission acceptance, and good luck to your students. Please publish these after they appear on the streets! I'll be looking forward to both!

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  2. So thrilled for you & for the roadside & for all those drivers. Photos when you get them, please!

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  3. Squee! Are you going to have an more exact location, or are we going to have to have all eyes peeled the whole way up to Crookston?

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  4. Congratulations on the poem acceptance! Pity I wont have a chance to drive by.

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  5. I CAN'T WAIT to see your poem, Emily. When you drive through Fergus Falls, stop by First Lutheran to say "Hi" to your old roomie's dad.

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  6. Thanks, all! Diana, it will be a bit north of the College Way/Tower Road intersection in Fergus, close to the college. I'll send you more specifics when I can. :)

    And Saul! Hello! I thought of you and your lovely wife immeditately when I found out. Unfortunately we won't be able to stop by as wedding bells will be ringing incessantly from farther north, but I will send you a wave!

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  7. How Fabulous and totally deserving as well! Let us know when we can read the poem!

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  8. Thanks, Liz! I'll post it right here as soon as I get the goods on film. :)

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  9. Congratulations! Can't wait to see the pictures and read your poem!

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  10. Photos are up now on the Roadside Poetry page (check the links on the right), but I'll post my own photos toward the end of October. Yeah!

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  11. Emily, congratulations on winning the autumn Roadside Poetry contest. Just checked out your poem and I love it. Writing such a succinct poem is a challenge, isn't it? You did it well.

    I won the spring Roadside Poetry contest. Believe me, it's a thrill to see your poetry and name splashed onto those four billboards. Be sure to wear sturdy shoes for walking in the ditch to get those photos.

    If you have time, drive into downtown Fergus and check out the Kaddatz Galleries, the vintage Fergus Theatre sign and more. I'd also highly recommend The Viking Cafe as a unique, back-in-the-day dining experience. You might want to have your picture taken, too, by the kitschy otter statue in a city park.

    I've written about my Fergus experience on my Minnesota Prairie Roots blog. Check my June archives or type "Roadside Poetry" into the search engine.

    Again, congrats and enjoy your visit to Fergus.

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  12. Audrey -- Thanks so much for the comments. Your Roadside Poem was actually the first one I read! It's beautiful, so congrats to you, too.

    I also appreciate your advice. I'll be heading up to Fergus in a dress so, er, perhaps I'd better throw some boots in the back. I'm not sure how much time I'll have in town, but I'll check out the cafe for lunch and maybe drive past the otter (I've been on that thingamajigie once before and won't soon forget the experience :). Cheers!

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  13. Congratulations! This is a wonderful idea (just another reason to love Minnesota!). I'll have to make sure we get up there this fall to see it; it'll be fun to say that I "know" the poet. :)

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  14. Many good things happening around here! =) What a neat project...congrats!

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  15. Thanks, Erin and Addie. I have to say, though, that I'm not sure why or how this September post went out via RSS feed this morning. Maybe Blogger felt it had to be rebroadcast? :) In any case, thanks for your well-wishes, and if you want to see the billboards, you can check out the following November post that includes some photos.

    http://www.landingoncloudywater.blogspot.com/2011/11/roadside-poetry-look-back.html

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  17. Emily, How perfect that your words will float in the Minnesota sky. I'm going to look for your billboards if I make it that way. AND, if you ever find yourself near my house, I'll take you on a tour of St. Paul's sidewalk poetry. We live in a great place, don't we? Congrats!

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  18. Hi Jen: I heard about St. Paul's sidewalk poetry this year and thought of you. Yes, a great place. And we still need to have another reading date!

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