The PoeTree is built upon the principle that community is the answer. It is but the first step in a multi-year plan to foster community engagement and to provide financial assistance to those communities. Read on to learn how the project all started and how you can help contribute to its growth.
In May 2015, I began a project called The Poetry Stand. The premise of The Poetry Stand is simple: it’s a lemonade stand, but for writing. Passers-by approach the table, tell me if they’d like poetry or prose, suggest a theme or a topic (if they’d like), and I write it for them on the spot. The process takes roughly two minutes and in exchange for the writing, the passer-by gives me a dollar. I then donate proceeds to the food bank. Thus far, I have donated approximately $1,400 to the food bank, one poem at a time.
But in doing The Poetry Stand I began to realize something: complete strangers who had approached my table were so vulnerable and honest about their lives: their loneliness, their depression, their joys, their dreams, their loves, and their passions. And it wasn’t long before I realized the stand itself wasn’t so much a place of financial exchange, but rather one of emotional exchange, a place where people felt safe to connect to another human being through the act of writing. This is what The PoeTree both replicates and magnifies.
The PoeTree is a large plastic/metallic willow tree (approx. 7ft x 7ft), possessing one hundred and thirty branches made of steel wire. At the end of each of these branches is an alligator clip and within the jaws of each clip is a single slip of paper, a poem. Passers-by are able to take a poem from the tree at any time they wish. Nearby is a sign that says as much. Also nearby is a small stand with pens and blank slips of paper so that passers-by can also leave their own poems for others to take.
Here we have a simple exchange between strangers, anonymous if they wish it to be, and above all emotionally charged. Here is another way to know and understand one another through the written word.
If you wish to commission The PoeTree to be a part of your establishment/event, get in touch! In doing so, you are investing directly in a plan to foster community engagement across the city and to provide financial support for those communities. This plan is summarized as follows:
Phase 1: The version of The PoeTree seen above is a prototype meant to explore the strengths and weaknesses of the design of the tree itself, to explore how people interact with it. The tree is designed for day-long events.
Phase 2: A larger, semi-permanent tree will be designed and built, meant to be erected for three weeks. It will be capable of withstanding inclement weather.
Phase 3: The semi-permanent design will be refined, erected, and then at a random moment in the three week duration, the entire tree will be stripped clean. This “bloom” of a hundred or so poems will be then be published into an anthology. The revenue from said anthology will be fed back into the community in which The PoeTree stood. These trees are, in essence, self-generative streams of revenue for the communities in which they stand.
Phase 4: A permanent tree will be designed and built, one that will last year-round in a Toronto park. Again, at a random moment throughout the year a bloom will be stripped and published, with revenue fed back into the community in which The PoeTree stood.
Phase 5+: Establishment of an annual PoeTree Foundation grant meant to provide financial assistance to emerging artists doing community driven work.