Albert Flynn DeSilver, the inaugural poet laureate of Marin County, California, has created a public project that invites the community to sit down with poetry. With the help of sculptor Todd Pickering and a load of used books, DeSilver created a portable "poetry chair" that he plans to display at area readings and festivals, as well as in less predictable locations like the county fair.
The chair, which has already been featured onstage at the Marin Poetry Festival, was constructed using fifty-eight collections and anthologies, with Emily Dickinson, Carl Sandburg, Dylan Thomas, and T. S. Eliot among the poets represented. A box in the chair’s arm, made from a book titled The Case for Poetry, holds pencils and paper for visitors to write new poems.
"People can sit in it, write poetry, leave poetry there, and read what other people have written,” Argo Thompson, executive director of the Marin Arts Council, told the Marin Independent Journal. "It's there to spark a conversation about poetry, and to bring the extraordinary into the everyday."
DeSilver, author of Letters to Early Street (La Alameda Press, 2007) and a veteran teacher and workshop leader, conceived of the project in an effort to bring poetry into the community in a unique way. On the project Web site, the poet called the chair "a kind of traveling poetry circus."
"We wanted to take it to public places, places you wouldn't expect: Stinson Beach on a Saturday in July, or the mall in Corte Madera, or perhaps a gas station or two," DeSilver told the Journal, mentioning tourist sites and a mountain stage as other potential venues for chair appearances.
Over the next year, the chair’s travels will be documented on the project Web site. In addition to inviting community members to visit the chair, DeSilver asks guests who have experienced the chair to post poetry, commentary, photos, and video, as well as creative works related to poetry in Marin County.