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Everyday Sidewalk

A few months ago Mom found a poetry contest going on in St. Paul and encouraged me to enter. The day before the deadline. After scrounging through some of my writing I pulled together three poems that met the strict guidelines on length: no more than 300 characters including spaces. Winners' poems would be stamped in sidewalks around the city, trying to bring intentional, artful words into our communities where we are constantly bombarded with language through the media. All summer I've been trying to find out where my poem was printed but the project only has one worker, the St. Paul artist in residence, and until today I had no idea if and where in the city people were walking over my poem. Waiting at my desk was an article from a co-worker who recognized my words in Sunday's Minneapolis Star Tribune. My name isn't mentioned, but I don't even care--I know it is me and now, so do you! I was going to wait until after making a trip to the sidewalk and taking pictures but now is as good a time as any to show you my work

Picture by David Brewster, Star Tribune
Stumbling across poetry in St. Paul
Available at:
Last update: September 19, 2008 - 2:21 PM

By Laurie Hertzel

Walking my dog through my St. Paul neighborhood on a rainy Sunday, I looked down and saw a poem. Right there in the sidewalk, at the corner of Grotto and Ivy.

A whimsical, unsigned poem embedded in the concrete. This hadn't been scrawled by a vandal with a stick; this was professionally done, nicely lettered, carefully pressed into wet cement.

Bad day

The red lid unscrewed

from the jar of extra crunchy

almost empty

and the full, mounded spoon

half shoved in my mouth

says it all --

I don't want to talk.

The poem is one of 20 that have started appearing in sidewalks since July. The project is the brainchild of Marcus Young, St. Paul's artist in residence, who was looking for ways to incorporate art into everyday projects.

And what could be more everyday than a sidewalk? He got together a group, held a competition, chose 20 poets, and teamed up with the Department of Public Works.

Already these 20 poems have shown up in about 50 places all over town, with a goal of 100 by the time sidewalk repair season ends.

The poems have also been published in a book, with a release party to be at 1 p.m. Oct. 4 at St. Stephanus Church, 739 Lafond Av., St. Paul. The project is funded by the nonprofit group Public Art St. Paul and a STAR grant.

Of course, I didn't know any of this as I stood in the drizzle, Riley snuffling at the wet leaves. I just read the poem and walked on, smiling at what felt like a secret gift, an unexpected and delightful surprise.


Hammie said...

Oh well done! truly immortalised and such a lovely thought for people to think of as they pass in a hurry; soon you can go home and do your favourite thing.
I'm an extra crunchy girl myself, although it is a long time since I indulged. Might grab a jar tomorrow.
Congratulations BIG SMILE for you!

Cal said...

The funny thing is, I don't really even love peanut butter that much! Ha! I just eat it by the spoonful every once in a while after a truly horrendous day. I do, however, love my little poem and it has been an honor being part of the project :)

Sal said...

Congrats, beautiful! You are already immortal ...

laurie said...

of course, i would have named you, had the poem been signed... but the anonymity just added nicely to the mystery.

Cal said...

Sal: Thanks! You're too sweet.
Laurie: None of the poems are signed and I agree, it adds to the myster and also brings a more community feel to the project instead of making it all about individuals. Thanks for writing the article! What a treat to make it into the Strib!

Confusador said...

I'm behind the times, as usual (always?), but let me add my congratulations as well. That's awesome!

Nick McGivney said...

I bounced here via Hammie. What an inspiring idea, and what a beautiful poem too. WEll done St Paul, well done Marcus Young and well done you!

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