In Lewisburg, Pa., poetry isn't confined to pages housed in libraries and bookstores. It's also found among the streets, parks and monuments along Bucknell's Poetry Path. This fall, visitors, residents and Bucknellians alike can experience an updated selection of poems along the 1-mile stroll through the University's campus and downtown.
Inaugurated in 2012 by Bucknell's Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts, the path consists of 10 stops at culturally significant Lewisburg sites — from a barn that served as a station on the Underground Railroad to the historic town cemetery to a 19th-century church. At each destination, pedestrians can find a marker featuring a poem selected for its thematic resonance with the location. The poem placed at a Civil War memorial, for example, reflects on the enduring scars of war, while the piece at Bucknell's student center ponders the power of knowledge.
The 2021 update brings a fresh mix of modern and classic writing to the installation, which was last modified five years ago.
"This iteration is noteworthy because we have cherished poems by historical poets like Gerard Manley Hopkins and Robert Hayden mingled with our usual mix of living poets," says Stadler Center Program Manager Andrew Ciotola. There's a '90s poem at the kids' playground, a mid-2000s selection at the post office and a piece recently written in 2018 at the park downtown."
Among the contemporary stanzas is a reflection on the art of poetry itself titled A Kind of Poetry, which marks the path's start at the Stadler Center and was written by one of the center's own former postgraduate fellows. While this is the first time a Bucknell fellow's work has been included in the installation, both undergraduates and postgraduates are often incorporated into the Poetry Path's selection process.
"We love inviting our staff and students to reflect on art-making and help connect poetry to the common sites we experience as we move about our lives in Lewisburg," says Ciotola, who can often be spotted walking his dog in Bucknell's surrounding neighborhoods. "Poetry by its nature is a way of dialing in to those short, quiet moments of daily life. The goal of the path is to get poetry off the page and quite literally out into the world, into people's everyday moments."
Even more, the public art project creates a uniquely lyrical bond between Bucknell and the town it calls home.
"Part of our mission at the Stadler Center is to increase the public's access to poetry, because it's not every day that those outside of academia engage with it," Ciotola says. "It's so gratifying to be out and see folks taking a minute or two to stop and read our markers. It's great for our center, for our neighbors and for the Bucknell-Lewisburg relationship."
Read a poem from the path
A Kind of Poetry
Location: Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts
Sometimes you turn to poetry
the way you turn to another country.
Everything is better, more humane.
You notice things you wouldn't
otherwise. You notice things.
Watching gardeners trim
branches for birds to fly through
reminds you of holes in your own country's
trees, which only make room
for wires. The entire center perforated
like a dart board in a dive bar.
After a while, however, you recall
those wires carry a language you know.