Weekender

15th annual event celebrates Pennsylvania wordsmiths

A poster by Wilson Hutton illustrates a poem by Shara McCallum for last year’s public poetry project.
A poster by Wilson Hutton illustrates a poem by Shara McCallum for last year’s public poetry project. Photo provided

After a long, cold winter, leave it to a change in seasons to bring the poetry back to life in Pennsylvania.

Mother Nature isn’t the only poet being celebrated this month — four wordsmiths will be honored at “An Evening of Pennsylvania Poets: Readings in Celebration of the Public Poetry Project.”

Scribes Tameka Cage, Paul Siegell, Sheila Squillante and Mary Szybist will read selections during the event, which will be hosted at Penn State. Each of the poets were born or have resided in Pennsylvania and were selected by a committee of previous honorees.

“Every year we get positive feedback,” Ellysa Cahoy, assistant director of the Pennsylvania Center for the Book, said.

This is the 15th anniversary of Penn State’s Public Poetry Project-sponsored celebration, which began with the aim of exposing Pennsylvanians to the literary talent cultivating in their own backyards.

“The main goal of the event was to make poetry more available to the citizens of Pennsylvania,” Cahoy said.

Poetic imagery plays a key role in the endeavor — figuratively and literally. Poems by the four artists will hang in libraries, restaurants, bookstores and coffehouses throughout the state in a series of posters designed by Wilson Hutton, a visual communications specialist in the University Libraries Department of Public Relations and Marketing.

“The biggest challenge is to find visual ideas that illuminate the poem without literally illustrating it. You don’t want to get too descriptive, you want to let the words do the talking,” Hutton said.

A total of 69 poetry posters have been distributed by the Public Poetry Project since 2000.

“That’s how we embed poetry in a wide variety of locations so that people can encounter it,” Cahoy said.

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