When you visit Silverwood Park in St. Anthony, you might expect to hear birds singing, frogs croaking, or leaves rustling as you walk through the woods. But do you expect to listen to poetry? Probably not, right? Did you just decide you don’t want to finish reading this post? You are not alone if you said yes.
Lots of people get uncomfortable when they hear the word “poetry.” Maybe it’s because poetry makes us feel something. It captures emotion and takes on challenging topics. Perhaps this discomfort makes some people say they hate poetry, but I am going to go out on a limb (Yes, that is a park pun!) and say they might actually like it.
In honor of National Poetry Month, why not give it a chance?
Little Peggy Ann McKay
In second grade, my favorite poem was Sick by Shel Silverstein. To this day, I can still recite most of it because its rhythm, beat, and rhyming structure make memorization easier. You see, poetry helps us remember and learn about language.
Sick describes a child’s persistent attempt to stay home as she declares feigned illness after illness, trying desperately to convince an adult why she cannot go to school.
As a child who wanted to stay with my mom, I could relate to Peggy’s sense of dread of the impending school day and ultimately, her sense of relief when she learns it is Saturday. The poem ends with Peggy jumping out of bed.
Poetry helped me process my emotions and feel like I was not alone in them. Plus, it was fun to read.
By now, would you agree that poetry has purpose? Understandably, you might still be wondering why you are reading about poetry on the Three Rivers Blog.
Art on Foot: Silverwood’s Poetry Trail
Did you know that Silverwood has a self-guided poetry trail as part of Art on Foot? There are six stops throughout the park. Each one is next to a bench where you can sit and listen to poetry.
Using a smart device, you can scan a QR code or type in a web address to access the tour, including the poem’s location on a map, audio of the poem, a written poem, and biography and image of the poet.
Look for this sign and sticker on a post.
The current tour of local writers and poets includes Su Hwang, Sherrie Fernandez-Williams, Keno Evol, Michael Torres, Timothy Otte, and Sagirah Shahid. Their poems help us connect to others and understand the world we live in.
April Gibson, local poet, essayist, and educator, selected the writers and poets to be included on the tour. Of this group, April says:
This is a collection of accomplished, talented poets, writers and performers who not only contribute to the literary community through their writing, but also through teaching, mentoring, organizing and activism.
Some have taught or mentored other writers at nonprofits, correctional facilities, or universities, among other places, while others have mentored or supported writers more informally with just as much impact.
Some of these writers are community organizers; some have founded their own organizations; others have spent years working in nonprofits, private organizations, or public agencies creating opportunities for writers, connecting the public to the arts, or advocating for changes within the literary community and beyond.
Poetry for Change
As described by April, the pen is a powerful tool. It is mightier than the sword. At Silverwood, we used it recently to tell local politicians that we care about climate change in Minnesota.
Local poet, writer, and educator Erin Sharkey led participants in a workshop called Poetry for Politicians. Participants were asked to think of a natural space important to them as Erin evoked their memories, emotions, and senses. They turned those ideas into poems, wrote them on postcards, and mailed them to numerous local leaders.
Writing is portable, requires minimal set up, and works in any language. Poetry is a creative practice and form of self-expression and discovery. Use your senses to describe what you see, how you feel, and where you are. Use it as a tool to harness and understand your emotions and experiences in a new way.
Your words can have an impact – even if no one else sees them but you.
About the Author
Eileen Cohen is an Art Educator and Exhibitions Coordinator at Silverwood Park, where she is approaching her nine-year work anniversary. Combining her love of the nature and art, Eileen found her dream job with Three Rivers Park District. She studied ceramics in college and graduate school and maintains a studio practice in northeast Minneapolis. She also teaches at the Northern Clay Center. A perfect day is over 70 degrees and includes adventure, fun, her bike, and a horse or two.
Like a living museum, Silverwood contains curiosities and specimens of every kind. Here, the connection between nature and art takes center stage. Learn about the park's history as an escape from the city and take a virtual walk down a trail of sculptures.
How do art and nature intersect? For one artist, it involves carefully placing fake birds in trees. For another, it appears as an explosion of colorful paint on canvas. Read on to learn how nature and Silverwood Park have inspired artists Paula McCartney and Kelli Nelson.