07 Nov Have Stanzas Will Travel
When I was a kid there was a corny saying that worked its way into conversations whenever someone said something that rhymed. I am guessing most of you have uttered it at least once at a middle school cafeteria table and could probably recite it with me on cue.
All together now: “You’re a poet and you didn’t even know it”
It always managed to get a laugh or a collective groan depending on the age of the audience and it was a good deflection for those of us who were not naturally great at prose at an early age. I was tempted to include some of my early poetry in this space to prove my point, but I just couldn’t bring myself to share the one about the shoe that had a soul.
As I have grown older, my appreciation for poetry has grown but not my ability to create my own stanzas.
Poetry can stir emotion, capture a moment and even make us laugh. It has the power to bring people together through the gift of well-placed words.
So, when the Southwest Florida Community Foundation was considering ways to connect to our neighbors as part of the opening of our new space, Collaboratory, poetry seemed like a vehicle of unity.
Collaboratory was created through a public- private partnership with the City of Fort Myers and is housed in the renovated 1920s Atlantic Coast Line Train Depot. The building is filled with many stories, both painful and poetic. It now houses the Foundation’s regional headquarters and an additional 13,000 square feet of space designed to bring people, ideas and funding together to create change.
We realized that the hundreds of people who would attend the grand opening would be bringing their own narratives and history of our community and we wanted to capture their thoughts on where they are from- literally and figuratively.
With my poetic skills lacking to lead this kind of effort we called in Traveling Stanzas.
The goal of the award-winning Traveling Stanzas, a project of the Wick Poetry Center at Kent State University is to bring poetry to everyday lives by fostering meaningful conversations and encouraging new voices. The program offers people moments of pause to slow down and reflect on their lives, their communities, and to participate in a shared creative experience.
For a few hours the Traveling Stanzas collected stanzas from people of all ages and backgrounds to create a collective poem for our community, simply by asking “where are you from?”
The Traveling Stanzas team takes hundreds of thoughts and ideas collected from us and creates a poem that captures the essence of our community. During the opening event we collected hundreds of unique stanzas.
The poem is not complete, and I haven’t seen the finished product, but I did have the chance to glimpse at few lines from a college-aged man in the crowd intently crafting his stanzas.
I am from the lost place of homes displaced
I am from what the beach brings
I am from salt filled lungs
I am from the bottom rung where songs were sung to escape poverty’s oppressive thumb
I have no idea if any of these stanzas will make it to the community poem, but it doesn’t matter.
He is a poet, and I know it. Stay tuned to see what we collectively created together.
About the Southwest Florida Community Foundation
The Southwest Florida Community Foundation, founded in 1976, cultivates regional change for the common good through collective leadership, social innovation and philanthropy to address the evolving community needs in Lee, Collier, Charlotte, Hendry and Glades counties. The Foundation partners with individuals, families and corporations who have created more than 400 philanthropic funds. Thanks to them, the Foundation invested $6.3 million in grants and programs to the community. With assets of more than $126 million, it has provided $79.9 million in grants and scholarships to the communities it serves since inception. The Foundation is the backbone organization for the regional FutureMakers Coalition and Lee County’s Sustainability Plan. The Southwest Florida Community Foundation’s regional headquarters are now located in the historic ACL Train Depot at Collaboratory in downtown Fort Myers, with satellite offices located on Sanibel Island, in LaBelle (Hendry County). For more information, call 239-274-5900 or visit www.floridacommunity.com