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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Randolph's 'Poem Town' Hopes To Win New Poetry Fans

VPR/Steve Zind
Dozens of Randolph businesses are displaying work of local poets as part of Poem Town.

Among the posters advertising spring sales and specials on Easter candy, there are poems in the windows of downtown Randolph businesses.

The idea for what organizers call "Poem Town” was inspired by a similar effort in Montpelier.

"I really wanted to open the door on poetry as a topic and have everybody enjoy it and be less afraid of it." - Marjorie Ryerson, organizer of Randolph's "Poem Town"

Auto parts and poetry may not seem like a natural match, unless gear pullers and alternator belts are your muse, but Larry Hart didn’t hesitate when organizers asked him to make room for poems in the window of his NAPA store.

“There’s a lot of creativity in this town.  It’s an honor to have them out there,” says Hart.

Hart’s is one of more than 50 Randolph establishments displaying poems written mostly by Central Vermonters.  

Hart says passersby have stopped to read the poems in his window. He’s read them all, but so far his customers are keeping their enthusiasm for Poem Town in check.

“We got the guys coming in who want an oil change; they don’t want to read poetry,” he says.

It’s hard to take more than a few steps in Randolph’s business district without seeing a poem. Organizer Marjorie Ryerson says it’s good for the poets but she hopes Poem Town will win a few converts.

“I really wanted to open the door on poetry as a topic and have everybody enjoy it and be less afraid of it,” she says.

Ryerson, who teaches poetry when she’s not serving in the Legislature, says a poem is about as close as we can get to putting the inexpressible into words.

“It is the opportunity to express ourselves about the things that matter or that make us laugh or make us weep. It comes close to composing music,” she says.

Shannon Stoddard, who owns Sidewalk Florist in Randolph, agrees.  As a one-time English major Stoddard is a poetry fan. As a business owner she’s a Poem Town fan.

“Anything to get people to stop and look in your window and stand at your window and interact with your storefront, even if it’s reading somebody else’s poetry is good enough,” says Stoddard.

Poem Town continues all month in Randolph and includes a series of readings by published poets as well as a poetry open mike night.

Steve has been with VPR since 1994, first serving as host of VPR’s public affairs program and then as a reporter, based in Central Vermont. Many VPR listeners recognize Steve for his special reports from Iran, providing a glimpse of this country that is usually hidden from the rest of the world. Prior to working with VPR, Steve served as program director for WNCS for 17 years, and also worked as news director for WCVR in Randolph. A graduate of Northern Arizona University, Steve also worked for stations in Phoenix and Tucson before moving to Vermont in 1972. Steve has been honored multiple times with national and regional Edward R. Murrow Awards for his VPR reporting, including a 2011 win for best documentary for his report, Afghanistan's Other War.
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