The Act of Reading

 On May 3rd and 4th we had two poetry walks in St Louis, each marking a trail of poetry boxes that are installed in the city until August 2nd. The poetry walk became public performance as the poems were shared out loud, with the poets reading their own work and the audience responding and moving through each site. The audience became unintentional paraders, “culturizng” the streets as one listener told me.  I first saw the poetry walks in this perspective thanks to the essay by Dr Suzanne Macaulay, a folklorist and art historian who wrote on Poetry of the Wild in 2013. Through this interpretation, each of the boxes becomes a sculptural stage for the reading of the poems they contain; each an opportunity for public recitation or for reflective individual reading. During the walk, we as audience physically responded as we listened to poets read- positioning ourselves anew at each new site, whether it was indoors- in a bookstore or gallery– or out in the quiet of the UMSL university campus or amidst the bustle of Euclid Avenue in the Central West End. As participants we paused to reread the inscribed poems for ourselves. In our reading we bended, twisted, read text that floated in air, was burnt into wood, hid in a nest, or was contained in envelopes inside a mail box. Our act of reading became dancelike; bodies and minds responding to to a diversity of spaces, material and words.