In Nickels Arcade, an “Ode to the Dandelions” appeared in April on the door of University Flower Shop. “You seeker of light / Expander of energy” proclaimed author dmsalo. Arcadian Antiques and Bon Bon Bon featured two poems apiece, while Dawn Treader on Liberty displayed Kathryn Orwig’s “The Bookshop Poem.” It begins: “Above the bookshop / where I work / there are apartments / I can hear them / walk / but not talk.”
They’re among the seventy-six original poems posted at thirty downtown locations in Ann Arbor’s first “Poet Tree Town” celebration. Timed for Poetry Month, it’s the work of self-declared “poetry advocate” Cameron Finch.
Twenty-eight and herself a writer of poetry and fiction, Finch says she was inspired by a similar event in Montpelier, Vermont, where she added a master’s degree in creative writing and publishing from Vermont College of Fine Arts to her B.A. in English from U-M. She put out the word in January that she was seeking contributions.
Many people who responded had literary leanings, including English majors and teachers of English or creative writing. But poems also came in from a therapist, a scientist, and a couple of kids, including six-year-old Ben D, whose poem in the window of Liberty St. Robot Supply & Repair is titled “I just want to tell you you are always loved.”
Those outliers especially please Finch, who’s concerned that too many people seem uneasy about poetry. An editor who works remotely for a small press in Austin, Finch wants to counter that stigma. “If somebody can just pass by one poem as they’re running by, if they notice one line and take that with them, it will have succeeded,” she says.
The poems are listed and mapped at the project’s Facebook page, PoetTreeTownA2, where Finch also shares poetry news and finds like Frank O’Hara’s 1951 poem “Ann Arbor Variations.” They’re also on Instagram @poettreetown_a2, and QR codes link to the poets reading their work.
The poems won’t be around much longer—the last day is April 30—but Finch emails that people already are asking about next year: “So far, requests are coming from people who want to submit, businesses who want to host poems, and community members who just want to walk through a month of poetry again!”