An example of a poem sandblasted at another location. Supplied
There is an exciting new community project going on in McCauley called Word On the Street. I spoke to co-facilitator Agnieszka Matejko regarding the project, which is funded by the Canada Council New Chapter and for which E4C has done a huge amount of work to make possible. The people in E4C that have been key to this project’s wellbeing are Kathryn Rambow and David Prodan. As well, more help has come from the McCauley Community League. You may have gotten a card in the mail regarding Word On the Street. If you are interested and you didn’t get a card, you can find one, with contest information on it, at Zocalo and other neighbourhood locations.
I asked Agnieszka what inspired this and other similar projects in Edmonton. I was told that the concept was inspired by a friendship with a man named Lenoose Martial who had an artistic spirit, but due to his homelessness of over 30 years he was unable to fulfill his dreams and talents.
Agnieszka wrote an article about his photography for Alberta Views and in the process of writing he sent her many poetic emails – more often than not at two or three in the morning. His words were so powerful and so much more profound and socially relevant than anything she had experienced over a 30 year academic career as a sessional instructor in two universities. She realized that there were vast pockets of talent in the broader community. Often people without the academic credentials don’t feel that they can write or submit poetry, especially for a permanent public art project. Word On the Street hopes to change that.
The second source of inspiration was Holly Newman’s installation at the Health Sciences LRT station. Holly sandblasted footprints into the platform. “I realized that words of Lenoose, or others, could be permanently engraved into concrete right in their communities. I thought that this was an original idea but when I looked this up on line it turned out that other visual artists had sandblasted text before but not often and not in very many cities,” Agnieszka said.
Word On the Street is looking for poems of five lines or less, the lines being around seven or eight words (or less). All poems must be original and written by the submitter. The themes have to meet community standards and have no titles. You can submit as many poems as you like, but you must include name and contact number on each page. (Email or phone number is fine). Each poem selected will be awarded $100 and be sandblasted into the sidewalk in the McCauley area. You can enter as many times as you like. If you are picked more than once you will be awarded more than once. Names will be taken off the submissions at the judging stage.
Poems can be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, you can deliver/mail them to:
Word On the Street c/o E4C Wellness
B08, 9541 108A Avenue
Right now, the project is looking at two locations for sandblasting. One location for which she already has permits will be in front of the Intercultural Centre at 9538-107 Avenue on the wide, new sidewalk. The second location will likely be in front of the Post Office Depot on Church Street. Other locations may be considered if the community decides on other sites.
If someone has questions, or a poem for the project that doesn’t meet the requirements, what is the best way to get answers? “I am more than happy to respond to questions and queries and even to help writers extract four or five lines out of an existing body of work,” says Agnieszka. “As I will not be making the poem selections, I am free to help and advise without a conflict of interest. People can reach me at the email contact provided above.”