PoemTown St. Johnsbury, the annual celebration of poetry that coincides with National Poetry Month in April, took a very different form in this year of COVID-19. The nearly 100 poems that were submitted were read aloud on FaceBook Live each weekday in April and May, rather than being posted in downtown business windows. All public performances scheduled for April were canceled, but the Poem Warriors, a group of community volunteers, collected nearly 100 poetry books, created special bookplates and bookmarks for them, and distributed them around town for passersby to take home. They also designed several poetry-inspired window displays in downtown storefronts. We want to thank Poem Warriors Heather Alger, Patricia Anderson, Sharon Kenney Biddle, Anne Campbell, Tara Holt, Beth Kanell, Sue Montague, Ann Traverso Moore, and all who donated books and items for the window displays.
In September, in preparation for Catamount Arts' Hey St. J! Get Downtown! event, funded in part by the Levitt Foundation, spoken word artist Rajnii Eddins and 13 local poets collaborated on the Community Poem Project, in which each poet wrote two lines inspired by the theme of "shared humanity." The poem was co-written by Bill Biddle, Mark Creaven, Rajnii Eddins, Jed Feffer, Joanne Giannino, Rachel Hadas, Adrien Helm, Judy Janoo, Beth Kanell, Sylvia Manning, Katie Moritz, Jeany Morris, MaryLiz Riddle, and Peggy Sapphire. The completed poem, below, was read by Rajnii during his performance on September 26. You can see the performance here, starting at 26:48 in the video: Hey St. J! Get Downtown! Sept 26
Community Poem 2020
There’s a light beneath these forms
Spans cross universes pure and warm
Here, a glowing force within earth’s fabric
Tasks faceless neighbors do less harm
While masks in rainbow hues hide mouths,
their eyes flash true compassion
and now we begin to see
just how fragile life can be
voices cross windows, doorways, computer screens
caress the newly born, the dying, the in-between
black shadows, gold September weather,
Chilled air, fierce breath, and heart's desire
in autumn fashion: Trees garbed in fire
What happens if we leave the rhyme behind?
Who do we see when we look in the mirror?
What thoughts then through reflection, summer-kind,
avoid old motes of fear for winter nearer?
Resist the dark, choose warming shawl instead,
The memories of those now wrapped in light.
The light from deep within my bones
spans a universe all my own.
In Amsterdam, nothing is impossible --
Just wait! For a possible.
Until the rustle of turning leaves
clears a vision between the trees
gives clarity beyond the known
courage beyond all resistance.
Geza Tatrallyay of Barnard was scheduled to read his poems at 142 Eastern this month as part of the PoemTown St. Johnsbury Celebration. He kindly recorded two readings, and we are happy to share them with you.
Poet Rachel Hadas of Danville recites the poems she submitted to PoemTown St. Johnsbury 2020.