Off-the-cuff stuff

Photo by Candace diCarlo

Forget about beauty. Forget about ideas. Poetry is about words. At least, it is, according to poet and Penn alum William Carlos Williams, who was celebrated April 1 when the Kelly Writers House set up its Magnetic Poetry Wall on Locust Walk. Tahneer Oksman (pictured) was feeling "slow but languid" as she added her two cents to the build-a-poem on College Green.

A kick-off to National Poetry Month, the dedication of the 8-by-20-foot translucent wall of thousands of magnetic word tiles took collaborative poetry to the impromptu extreme, with everyone getting to play poet for at least a line.

"Words can constitute communities," said Kelly Writers House faculty director Al Filreis. "We're celebrating poetry's most public nature."

Penn President Judith Rodin paid the wall a visit and provided the first poem's line, "Imagine a time." The rest flowed from whomever was quickest with the magnetic tiles: "... a springing into gorgeous music, no thousand apparatus, whisper went the chocolate, dream and song, trudge him blue, worship in a symphony, slow not languid, balloon beneath behind the day, whisper but lather flew petal mist, glow and walk together, go summerly silent, pinking up life." No doubt, some of the poetry took on a more sophomoric slant after the grown-ups left.

The tiles come down at night before being awakened for another day of ephemeral expressions.

Originally published on April 16, 1998