Poems are show­ing up on Columbia side­walks, but only when it rains

The State - - Stay Connected - BY DAVID TRAVIS BLAND tb­[email protected]­tate.com David Travis Bland: 803- 413- 8485, @dtrav­is­b­land

Peo­ple might find them­selves singing in the rain on the streets of Columbia if a per­son can pick the tune out of a poem.

One Columbia, the city’s pub­lic art or­ga­ni­za­tion, and Ed Mad­den, poet lau­re­ate of Columbia, have teamed up to cre­ate what they’re call­ing “Rain Poetry.”

With Rain Poetry, Mad­den so­licited poems over the past year that were sten­ciled on side­walks in the Vista, on Main Street, in Five Points and around USC’s cam­pus and the State House. The ma­te­rial with which the writ­ings were painted on the ground only shows up when wet. So when it rains, poetry shows up on the side­walks.

“One of my goals as the city lau­re­ate is to think about poetry as a pub­lic art, and an­other goal is to cre­ate venues for the voices of lo­cal and young writ­ers,” said Mad­den, who is also a pro­fes­sor of English at USC. “This does both.”

The idea came from a sim­i­lar project Mad­den learned about in Bos­ton. The Columbia ver­sion has one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence. Rain Poetry took poems by lo­cal writ­ers.

Three of the poems came from mid­dle school stu­dents Har­sha Avula, Zoe Amick and Jisoo Lee who Mad­den worked with at the TriDis­tict Arts Con­sor­tium last sum­mer.

Avula wrote: “Rain falls

On silent streets Re­veals mys­te­ri­ous state­ments” Amick’s poem reads: “Rain pours down, rhyth­mic sound

Light­ning strikes, picks a fight

Birds take flight to the safety of nests.”

Lee’s work was a stand­out to Mad­den.

“The clouds burst open one by one

They can’t stand it any­more

The truth is too much to bear,” the poem reads.

One of the writ­ers is Irmo High School stu­dent Re­becca Rude who wrote:

“I glance down, the mask still fixed, a smile fas­tened on my face”

“I think it’s fan­tas­tic that we’re able to fea­ture lo­cal po­ets and es­pe­cially young po­ets as part of this project,” Lee Snel­grove, di­rec­tor of One Columbia, said.

But the poems won’t last for­ever. The wa­ter­proof ma­te­rial stays for about two months de­pend­ing on foot traf­fic.

“I re­ally love the ephemeral na­ture of this,” Mad­den said.

So peo­ple will have to go out into the city and try to find the poems soon. That’s the point, Mad­den and Snel­grove said.

“We con­tinue to try and find projects that bring poetry and, by ex­ten­sion, art to where peo­ple are and for them to ex­pe­ri­ence it as a reg­u­lar part of their city,” Snel­grove said.

Pro­vided by Ed Mad­den.

A poem by mid­dle schooler Jisoo Lee is part of Columbia’s “Rain­works” project.

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