Minnesota Poet Laureate Joyce Sutphen’s work will be included in the Winona Poetry Walk.
The Winona Fine Arts Commission (FAC), with the support of city staff and the City Council, is launching a new public art project called the Winona Poetry Walk, consisting of original poetry stamped into sidewalks beginning this spring starting in downtown Winona.
The FAC requests submissions of original short poems (or parts of poems), 10 of which will be selected for the inaugural year to be placed as new sidewalks replace those in need of repair. The Winona Poetry Walk will be an ongoing program, with a map made and brochures available so that residents and visitors can share these creative works with each other. “Sidewalk poetry” is present and popular in other communities including La Crosse, Wis., and Northfield, Minn.
The FAC and recent Poet Laureate Ken McCullough worked with Winona Public Works Director Keith Nelson, City Planner Carlos Espinosa, and Assistant City Planner Luke Sims to make the walk a reality. Winona’s Poetry Walk will have one important difference from other communities — it will hopefully include one work by a state poet laureate per year, so that these celebrated figures will have their poems mingling alongside local poets’ words. The first state poet laureate to be included will be Minnesota Laureate Joyce Sutphen.
Submissions will be accepted through January 31, with decisions to be made in February, and the winning poems will then be made into stamps and announced to the public in April, during a Poetry Month celebration. The concrete sidewalk stamping will begin in spring and will be completed for a celebration and ribbon-cutting ceremony sometime in late summer or early fall. Poems may be composed in either a vertical format (up to 11 lines; no line having more than 26 characters including spaces and punctuation), or horizontal format (up to eight lines; no line having more than 36 characters including spaces and punctuation). If a title is included, it will count as two lines (title line plus a line space between the title and the poem). These size restrictions are strictly enforced. Each entrant may submit up to two poems for consideration.
Besides the original placement downtown, in the future, Winona residents will be asked if they would like a poem stamped in their sidewalk when it is slated for replacement. The homeowner will be responsible to coordinate with the designated city contractor (or the contractor of their choice) to put the poetry stamp into their sidewalk. The stamps will be stored at a city-owned location, and each year residents will be able to choose from the selection of stamps for their sidewalk replacement project.
The selections will be judged by a panel of volunteers with expertise in the arts and poetry including Lezlea Dahlke, director of the Winona Public Library; Allison Quam, writer, research librarian at WSU and board member of Winona Area Public Schools; Mai’a Williams, poet; Ken McCullough, poet and most recent Winona poet laureate; Marcia Ratliff, poet and city of Winona youth services librarian; and Roger Boulay and Rebecca Sims, Fine Arts Commission members.
All those wishing to submit must be city of Winona residents or current full-time students and all submissions may be made online at https://cityofwinona.wufoo.com/forms/mt1ncak0wv3sw3/ or by clicking the button at the right of the Fine Arts Commission webpage at https://www.cityofwinona.com/city-services/boards-commissions/fine-artscommission- home/.