Here, word play is taken literally.
The newly installed Poetry Makerspace in the Colonnade will act as a bookend to the first-ever Brick Walk Book Walk from noon to 3 p.m. on Sunday and from noon to 2 p.m. on Monday. The Makerspace features the interactive exhibit, Traveling Stanzas, from the Wick Poetry Center of Kent State University.
The Poetry Makerspace invites Chautauquans of all ages to engage with this season’s texts to create poems of their own through a creative process known as erasure or blackout poetry. Drawing from excerpts of Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle, CLSC Young Readers and morning lecture texts, the works also relate back to the overarching weekly themes.
“It’s another way to get people to become a part of the conversation,” said Atom Atkinson, director of literary arts.
But it also challenges Chautauquans in a new way. “I think there are lots of Chautauquans who feel very comfortable walking up to a microphone at a Q-and-A and talking for a while, or walking up to an author at a book signing and talking for a while,” they said. “That’s great. But some people need a different way into a conversation and might actually have trouble seeing themselves as someone who deserves an equal place at the table.”
Engaging directly with an author’s work creates a dynamic much closer to an equal playing field than that of a microphone and lectern, Atkinson said.
After creating a poem, participants may print it out as a postcard to save or send, or hang it up on the gallery wall, which will accumulate and morph as the season continues. Atkinson said this will hopefully foster a conversation between poet and author, and facilitate a generative, creative conversation surrounding the challenging issues of today.
Additionally, at 4:30 p.m. Wednesdays on Bestor Plaza, volunteers may present the poems they create as part of a new event: Stanzas on the Plaza.
Poems created in the Makerspace also have the opportunity to be included in future Traveling Stanzas exhibits at other locations. The Makerspace is a playful and colorful room dotted with white community tables, iPads loaded with the relevant texts and a wall of shelves. Next to the shelves is a pile of large wooden words, big and light enough for little hands to lift.
Dave Griffith, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said that although children can “no doubt” navigate an iPad, this is designed for those still learning to read. The Poetry Makerspace will be one of the stars of the brand new Brick Walk Book Walk, intended to highlight all aspects of the love and life of literary arts in Chautauqua. Other stars, including the Chautauqua Bookstore, Smith Memorial Library and the Writers’ Center, will manage tables.
Additionally, Week One’s poet-in-residence, Mathias Svalina, will sell subscriptions to his project Dream Delivery Service. He will then take to his bicycle and hand-deliver dream poems on the grounds during Week One.
There will also be signs installed along the grass with quotes from poet and activist Lawrence Ferlinghetti about poetry and the way poetry lives in the world. People can walk up and down the Brick Walk, from the Literary Arts Center front lawn, through Bestor Plaza and to the Poetry Makerspace, exploring at their own pace.
“The Brick Walk Book Walk is really our attempt to make sure there’s something sending people to check out this new thing,” Atkinson said.