“Set up on a street corner, at a bus stop, in a park with my Smith-Corona vintage blue typewriter, a jar of words, and some watercolor paints, I never know what to expect or who I will meet. Some approach Poetry on the Streets with trepidation; others dive right in; some decide to trust a stranger and take a risk. But every time, people express feeling better after writing their poems. People connect, share things they’ve never told anyone, laugh, cry, tell stories of their pasts, dreams for their futures. Many surprise themselves at their abilities and reflections. People write in their native languages; they write to one another, to long lost friends; they write for themselves. They take it with them or they leave it behind for others to read. Many who’ve never written a poem, or say they can’t, do. Each encounter, pausing to express, create, connect, changes something. And then we go on our way a little lighter.”
-Melanie Pappadis Faranello
Melanie is a teaching artist in Hartford, CT where she works with underserved youth and teens teaching creative writing. She developed Poetry on the Streets as a project that would serve the greater diverse public in her community. Poetry on the Streets’ (POTS) is a public art project designed to engage communities in creative self-expression, connect people through the poetry of everyday life, and share the words of people from different walks of life to promote compassion and greater understanding of one another.
As a writer and educator with a passion for connecting people through their creative expressions and breaking down boundaries between diverse populations, Melanie wanted to highlight our common human experience through poetry. Each of her poets pick a word from Melanie’s “jar of emotions,” which they use to compose a short poem right there on the spot. In 2018, she received a seed grant from The Pollination Project to help purchase supplies, build a website, and hold a gallery exhibition of the poems collected through her project.
“The support from TPP was invaluable,” she shared. “It helped me with my project on so many levels–financially, emotionally, professionally, and personally. Being connected to a wider network of change makers around the world was so inspiring and helped me feel validated and encouraged. Oftentimes, this work is done alone and can feel isolating, so having TPP at my back, gave me a boost of courage and confidence as well as opened doors.”
Since receiving that original seed funding, Melanie held the gallery show. She also built a partnership with the local transit authority to create “The Poetry Bus,” which saw CT Transit bus #1732 display excerpts of poetry about freedom, equality, and peace written by her creative writing students from “Hartford Young Writers” and “Word Up for Teens”. Most recently, “Poetry on the Streets” will be taking over a local vacant storefront, transforming it into a living poetry exhibit.
In the future, Melanie plans other public displays of poetry, along with travel to other cities beyond Hartford. She hopes to one day publish a book of photographs and poetry collected throughout her project.
“Everyone has a poem inside,” Melanie believes. “Everyone has a story.”