It’s no longer just roses that require pause. While ambling through St. Paul, we can now stop and read the sidewalks.
For poetry has sprouted in concrete squares around St. Paul.
The Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk program was created by St. Paul’s Public Artist in Residence, Marcus Young. Support comes from St. Paul Public Works and Public Art St. Paul.
Twenty poems were selected by a poetry panel from more than 2,000 submitted this spring, and each has been “stamped” in sidewalk cement several times already. More are coming each week, as the Sidewalk Poetry crew follows along with workers installing new sidewalks around the city.
Advice for Gardeners
Emancipate failed growth, hope
it’ll just keep living. Mulch
near odd places. Quit raking.
Tend unlimited variegated words.
Xerox your zucchini.
—Kate Lynn Hibbard
The poems are short, designed to be read quickly and outdoors.
“We were looking for brief moments of delight” in selecting the winning poems, Young said. “We were aware that this would be outdoor reading, which is very different from reading in bed or elsewhere.”
And they had to be “suitable for the public realm,” he said. So, no questionable limericks. Judges read the submissions without knowing the author; several of the winners, though, are established poets, Young said.
She was steward
of the smallest things: pair of dead bees
in the windowsill, Santa ring,
cluster of elm seeds in their felted cells.
The poems have been “typeset” into large stamps which are then inserted into the curing cement to “print” the poems in the sidewalk. Some poems take up one sidewalk square, others need two or three.
They’re already in place in the city’s East Side, North End, Frogtown, Merriam Park and Macalester areas. Some will be installed downtown in the next few weeks.
It only takes a second
To change this spot forever.
Some are quite accessible and understandable in a quick, outdoor glance. Others are less so.
On a delicate pappus you rose
Alighted on turf, seeming benign;
Locked into bedrock with pointed toes
Stretched lemon head to the sun.
Hydra, you dodge the mower blade.
I whack you with a spade for fun.
Fine! Senseless to fret.
I’ll transmute gold locks into wine
And eat your children with vinaigrette.
An open house to celebrate the sidewalk poems will be held Saturday at St. Stephanus Lutheran Church, 739 Lafond Ave., from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. (There will be a program at 2 p.m.) There are three sidewalk poems installed within a few blocks of the church.
A hand-bound book containing the 20 winning poems, along with 14 honorable mentions, will be available for $20.
More information at Everyday Poems for City Sidewalk.