If it rains on Saturday, July 1, poetry will appear like messages from the mists of time or the foggy beyond or the mysterious washes of memory. And if it doesn’t rain, visitors walking the streets of Roxbury will be supplied with watering cans to douse the sidewalks themselves and reveal the hidden poems left there by local wordsmiths. Twenty-one of these disappearing and reappearing poems will be stenciled on sidewalks with water-repellent spray. When wetted down, the biodegradable, invisible “ink” emerges in verse.
Raining Poetry was conceived by Robin Factor, who admits that poetry can seem somewhat intimidating. “Or it can seem separate from life as you go about daily tasks. Bringing it to folks in this playful way can make it less intimidating.” Still, poetry is meant to surprise and poke the senses, especially when it’s presented in public places; think of the MTA’s “Poetry in Motion,” the provoking display of poems on New York City subway cars, Metro Cards and touch-screen kiosks. Like sidewalk chalk art that defies visual perspective, unexpected engagement with poetry can have a similar effect.
“It’s ephemeral,” Factor says of the medium being used in the project, “kind of the way people think of poetry to begin with. [The poems] go in and out of view, so you can remember the poem and then see it again.
“This is the second year we’ve done the project. Last year we had ten poets and poems. I received a grant to expand it, and we put out a call for submissions – for poems with a maximum of 16 words and four lines.” Poets appearing “on the sidewalk” this year include Lloyd Barnhart, Bill Birns, Ellenora Cage, Esther Cohen, Esther de Jong, Melody DiGregorio, Eddie Donoghue, Chris Durham, Naomi Fisch, Connie Horne, Ginnah Howard, Judith Lechner, Gail Lennstrom, Gary Mead, Katie Miller, Mark Osterweil, Chris Rosenthal, Sharon Ruetenick, Teri Julig Schlobohm, Anique Taylor and six-year-old Ellie Waters.
Factor means to generate familiarity and comfort with this fun street-art project, surprising pedestrians with the written word through a novel delivery system. An open-air reception will follow later in the afternoon in front of Roxbury General, where participating poets will read their works and do a question-and-answer session with the audience. Come to Roxbury this weekend to water the streets and read the poems!
Raining Poetry in Roxbury 2017 is sponsored by WIM, a not-for-profit organization serving upstate communities by providing a nurturing environment for the practice, appreciation and sharing of creative writing. The project is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts’ Decentralization Grant Program, with the support of governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature, and is administered in Delaware County by the Roxbury Arts Group.
Raining Poetry, Saturday, July 1, reception/reading 3 p.m., Roxbury General, 53587 Main Street, Roxbury; (607) 326-6118, http://writersinthemountains.org.