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Poetry’s Magnetic Attraction

February 21, 2003

Eighty years ago, the first self-contained home refrigerator, a Fridgedaire, had a wooden cabinet like its ancestor, the ice box. However, steel and porcelain followed a few years later and opened the door for refrigerator magnet poetry.

If you are attentive, you may notice the refrigerator near the library’s front door. It’s an old round-top fridge like you used to have when you were a kid.

On one side of the fridge is a collection of refrigerator magnets of the kind you’ve seen before, with words and letters to make poems such as:

“Go like blue sky and swim melonly through waters like tea.”

Sort of like e.e. cummings.

With these kinds of poems, we hope to raise a little money for the third annual “Poetry on a Platter” poetry festival to be hosted by the public libraries in Salida, Montrose, and Paonia from April 12 to 17.

Raise money? you wonder. Yes: by selling the privilege of adding lines of poetry to the refrigerator at a dollar a line. We want it to be affordable. We want many lines of poetry. Don’t worry, we will save the poems. As we move them off the fridge every week, we’ll post them nearby for all to read.

Refrigerator poetry is fun. The limited vocabulary doesn’t seem to be a constraint on creativity. In fact, the limitations bring to mind another highly constrained form of poetry — haiku.

Traditional haiku has rules about number of syllables and about content, such as the mention of, or allusion to, a season. For example, without explicitly mentioning Spring, a haiku poet might mention cherry blossoms.

Refrigerator poems are often haiku-like, if only because the limited vocabulary invites short phrases.

We won’t require haiku, but we will have a few rules about length and content. The library staff retains ultimate editorial authority. Please save any morbid anger and sexual angst for another forum.

So, you can slap down a ten-spot and arrange a nice little poem of your own. Or you can see what’s been posted as a community poem and, for a painless buck, add a line when the inspiration strikes.

This is more the spirit of haiku’s relative — the renga — a form of linked verse often composed by a group of poets. We’ll collect all the individual poems and community renga that the refrigerator can generate before “Poetry on a Platter” begins.

The hibernating economy has changed our approach to funding “Poetry on a Platter.” The libraries involved have had to seek smaller subsidies from more sponsors than in the past.

But this will be fun, too. We’re looking forward to the refrigerator poetry, no matter how much it helps the effort. We’ll also have a “Pennies for Poetry” can at the checkout desk to help people extend the lives of their pocket linings.

We even have a formal sponsor program, through which one can be a named sponsor of “Poetry on a Platter” — on advertising and T-shirts — or even “Adopt a Poet” for the event. See Kathy Berg at the library for more details.

We greatly appreciate the sponsors who have come forward so far — individuals, businesses, and other organizations. The previous festivals have been fun and satisfying for the featured poets, the audiences, and the poets who participated in the workshops and open mic performances.

This year, we’ll even read some refrigerator poetry. Don’t miss this chance to published and performed. Buy a line of poetry.

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