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Poetry In The Panes

SANTA FE, N.M. — Look up while you’re crunching through Santa Fe’s chilly streets and you’ll find stenciled words emerging from frosty panes.

If Santa Fe is a living book penned by its inhabitants, then “Snowpoems 2013” is its talisman.

The Cut+Paste Society has partnered with the Santa Fe Art Institute to collect and distribute community poems between window frames throughout Santa Fe.

If you go
WHAT: Snow Poems 2013
WHERE: Community Gallery, Santa Fe Community Convention Center, 207 W. Marcy St.
WHEN: Closing Ceremony 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, with walking tours, tours led by local poets and the Snow Poems Choir.
CONTACT: snowpoemsproject@gmail.com

Armed with stencils and fake snow spray, Cut+Paste’s Edie Tsong has been climbing ladders and stenciling 10-inch-high cut-out letters on 60 street-facing windows of 40 government buildings, schools, libraries, offices and businesses across the city.

Fueled by a SITE Santa Fe Spread grant of $7,000, this seasonal community event will remain until the closing celebration, “A Night of Illumination,” from 6-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22.

The idea germinated at a meeting of the Cut+Paste Society, a cooperative of women artists and writers. A member completing her bachelor’s of fine arts degree at what was then the College of Santa Fe was required to do a temporary installation. She went to the nearest Hobby Lobby and bought a can of snow spray, producing Keith Haring-esque graffiti lines in a school window. Later Tsong attended a winter ceremony at the Santa Fe Children’s Museum. A speaker described the entry into a time of darkness, a time of reflection and incubation of ideas.

The two concepts merged into a community-wide project.

Then a teacher at the New Mexico School for the Arts, Tsong decided to launch the event at the school last year with the help of both the students and faculty. Winning the SITE grant jump-started its leap into the city.

Cut+Paste called for “brief – shorter than haiku” open poetry submissions. About 350 poems bombarded its inbox.

“We had a night of curation,” Tsong said. That night extended to three rounds.

“It’s kind of based on the emotional impact, the meaning and context of the location,” she said of their choices. “Some people wrote specifically for the windows and a lot of published poets used existing lines from published poems.”

Tsong consulted with each site for permission. Most accepted the idea. A handful declined.

Although an enthusiastic project supporter, Charlotte Jackson Fine Art said the letters conflicted with their current exhibit. At first willing, La Boca pulled back so that diners could still admire the scenery from their tables.

Santa Fe poet Lauren Camp penned “Praying for a glob of honey” for Marji Gallery, located at Read and Guadalupe streets.

“She had been sick for an entire month,” Tsong explained.

Twelfth-grade Capital High School student Pedro Tena wrote “I wrap my arms around you, forever frozen” for a county office window at the Solano Center.

Workshops and classes at Carlos Gilbert, Wood Gormley, Turquoise Trail and the New Mexico School for the Arts also midwifed some verse. “I think this project was just born in Santa Fe because we’re so creative,” Tsong said.

“We cut stencil letters out of reusable plastics,” she continued. “You play with the placing at the window frames, and that’s the tricky part because the letters are 10 inches high.”

A team of about 10 interns lugged ladders and spray cans, emblazoning windows around town.

SFAI’s Michelle LaFlamme-Childs said some of the poems evolved from school projects, specifically DeVargas Middle School. The institute led a class requiring young authors to write one-sentence Hemingway-esque stories. LaFlamme-Childs submitted her own work to the open call. Readers can find the results on the Jerry Apodaca Education Building.

“It’s about the realization that mortality is real; it’s not abstract,” she said.

All locations will be asked to leave their lights on for the ceremonial display.

LaFlamme-Childs will take part in the closing ceremonies, leading visitors on a walking tour of the glass canvases. “We’ll walk people downtown and read the longer versions of the poems,” she said.

The Snow Poems Choir, a “Hear Here Spontaneous Choir” with Molly Sturges of the Littleglobe project, will guide participants to sculpt and weave sounds together with excerpts from the poems.

It all comes down between Feb. 26 and March 3.

The city’s We Do Windows has volunteered to wash all of the government buildings. The individual businesses will be responsible for their own clean-up, Tsong said.

“It just flakes off and you wash it with Windex.”


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