August 16, 2012

By Heather Johns

LEWISBURG, Pa. — Close your eyes. Listen. A poet's voice floats into your ears and you breathe deep the Pennsylvania air.

Now open your eyes. Read along with the poet, see how poem and place are irrevocably entwined. You've been here before, but never like this.

You are on Bucknell University's new Poetry Path.

"People have a notion that poetry is inaccessible," said Shara McCallum, director of the Stadler Center for Poetry. "It's hard to dispel that myth. The Poetry Path is an inroad to saying that poetry can be a part of your lived experience."

McCallum conceived of the Poetry Path two years ago. While on sabbatical, she saw poems etched into marble walls in the New Jersey Transit Authority. "Inspired by this and other projects that involve poems in unexpected ways, I began to think again about the public uses of poetry," she said. "Cities have poems everywhere. Why not Lewisburg?"

Her idea has become a reality. Visitors can read and listen to contemporary poems by living poets, recited in the poets' own voices, at 10 sites on the path. The poems are printed on plexiglass panels, and visitors can use a QR decoder on their smartphones to access audio recordings of the poems.

The Poetry Path begins at Bucknell Hall and winds through campus and downtown Lewisburg, ending at the intersection of 7th Street and Moore Ave. Each poem pays tribute to the distinctive history and architecture of Lewisburg and Bucknell.

McCallum and other Stadler Center staff will lead tours of the Poetry Path, which is handicapped accessible and open year-round. The inaugural tour, led by McCallum, takes place Aug. 24 at 3 p.m., beginning at the Campus Theatre (site six on the path). Bucknell Vice President for Communications and Community Relations Pete Mackey and Lewisburg Mayor Judy Wagner will provide opening remarks.

The Poetry Path is the latest in a string of Bucknell initiatives to bring art to public spaces, including the renovation of Lewisburg's historic Campus Theatre in 2011 and the opening of the Downtown Gallery in March 2012.

"The goal is to make people aware that poetry exists in a casual setting, not just in poetry readings," explained McCallum. "To allow someone to stumble across a poem while on an errand or out meeting a friend — that's the idea behind the Poetry Path."

Contact: Division of Communications

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