My fifteen students in ENGL 305: Writing Poetry gave a final reading on my front porch yesterday morning. They each read one of their own poems and then a poem that they loved from our required texts. We all stood down on the sidewalk for each reading. Additional audience members included the mailman, pizza guy, and several passersby in cars and on foot. My hope is to continue to have my students do public poetry projects. The following students gave me written permission to share their photos here.
I want to get a group of poets and poetry readers together to go door-to-door reading poems in the community for the holidays. The poems should be about community, but that doesn’t mean that they should be easy, “rah-rah” poems. Rather, they should engage issues that the community faces—that our nation faces—that will also provide something to the listener, be it a new perspective, an idea, or even hope.
Although I’m going to try to launch this in my own neighborhood—Oregon Hill in Richmond, Virginia. My hope is that this could eventually happen in neighborhoods all over the United States. These groups could even ask their neighbors several questions like:
- When was the last time you read a poem?
- What was the greatest challenge you faced in reading poems?
- Do you feel like the poems you had previous experience with appealed to your own life?
- Do you know that poets are still writing today?
- Did this poem address a concern that you have about your community?
Additionally, poetry educators could ask their students to be a part of the program, as a service learning endeavor.
Of course, not all neighbors would be receptive to this project, but some people would at least listen. Others might be engaged or inspired.
The seed for this project comes from an encounter I had with a police officer who was looking for the previous tenant at my house. When he asked me what I teach, he told me had a book of poetry in his cruiser. We talked for over thirty minutes about poetry and how he wanted to understand it better. This whole exchange happened on my front porch.
If you are interested in this project and would like to talk about collaborating on a door-to-door poetry caroling project in your neighborhood, please contact me through the form below.