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Eight prize-winning poems etched into Lansing neighborhood sidewalks


"A nod to Robert Busby," by Therese Wood.

Getting poetry out of the books and into the streets, the Lansing Sidewalk Poetry Project completed its mission of etching eight local poems into prominent Lansing neighborhoods.

“It places a poem in a surprising environment,” said Ruelaine Stokes, Lansing Sidewalk Poetry Project coordinator. “Think about how boring concrete is, how ordinary. As you are walking along the street, you encounter a poem where you didn't expect it to be and that makes you see it and where it’s at in a new way.”

Lansing poet laureate Dennis Hinrichsen said, “It animates the inanimate. These poems are a way of tapping into what the soul might say in this space about this space.”

The Lansing Sidewalk Poetry Project received a placemaking grant by the Lansing Economic Area Partnership, or LEAP, and the Arts Council of Greater Lansing to highlight four areas of the city in 2017.

Receiving 76 submissions from March to May 2018, eight were selected as winners.

“The Arts Council and LEAP are real visionaries in the way they understand how art is used to transform where we live,” said Stokes. “It gives us a greater sense of our place in the world, and our connections to this particular place and to the meaning and importance of our lives.”

In addition to the ARTS Council and LEAP, Stokes said, the Lansing Poets and Lansing Poetry club were instrumental in the program’s success.

“Everyone we talked to facilitated us getting into the sidewalks … it’s so positive,” said Hinrichsen. “Something happened in the past few years in Lansing that exploded into trying to make this a more human place.”

Hinrichsen said the selection process included a focus on accessibility and direct communication since the poems are in the public eye.

“It also bypasses economic difference,” said Hinrichsen. “Kids of all economic strata can look at these and see possibilities in their own lives.”

“They start thinking about writing, language and critical thinking; things that move beyond poetry into becoming better citizens.”

Hinrichsen said that passers by should make themselves comfortable with the sidewalk poetry.

“Dance on them, video tape them, talk about the poem. Do whatever you do to bring the poem forward and make it a part of our project,” said Hinrichsen.

“It is an experiment, and we want to see how people will interact with these spaces.”

For more information, visit www.lansingpoet.com


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