In an era when most people receive mail in an inbox, a little neighborhood in central Tucson is offering an old-school opportunity for everyone to experience the power of poetry through a Poetry Mailbox — no stamps necessary.
The Broadmoor-Broadway Village Poetry Crew welcomes the community to celebrate the dedication of a colorful, whimsical mailbox filled with poems from 10 to 11 a.m. Saturday on the Treat Walkway just north of Arroyo Chico and south of 2802 E. Croyden St.
Just in time for National Poetry Month, the event will feature readings by Tucson poet laureate T.C. Tolbert, Wendy Burk, Eric Magrane, Marge Pellegrino and three fifth-grade student poets from Manzo Elementary School.
The mailbox is a labor of love for the Poetry Crew, comprised of village residents Joan and Mike Weingarten, Cynthia Holmes, Ryan Brown, Richard Roati, Heather Free, Ginny Kovatch and Elizabeth Salper, who spearheaded the project and will also read at the event.
Salper, who moved to the village in 2000, has been chalking poems on area sidewalks, plazas, benches and outdoor spaces since 2014. In February, she received a stART Grant from the Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona under a movement she christened Urban Poetry Pollinators, which seeks to “pollinate” poetry in outdoor public spaces and foster neighborhood/community connections through poetry.
“I feel like something happens when you encounter a poem in a surprising manner on a bench or in walkways … the Treat Walkway is a thoroughfare for cyclists and dog walkers from many neighborhoods and I would love to spread the idea of bringing poetry to life outside of four walls. I have always believed in that,” said Salper, who tweaked the idea of “poetry boxes” found in Portland to create the Poetry Mailbox with the Poetry Crew.
The Poetry Mailbox, which features a flag that can be raised to signal that poems need to be added, is distinguished by a whimsical metal rooster attached to the top and the bold artwork of artist Heather Free.
“She has such a great sense of color and design and took it to a groovy Tucson level,” said Salper.
Brown, another member of the Poetry Crew who coordinated a free neighborhood library several years ago, helped to prepare the mailbox for painting and “planting.” He said that poetry group adds to the unique character of the village for adults and children.
“It is like a treasure hunt to find poems and read them to our children. It is a nice engagement with the neighborhood and with important aspects of literature and child development,” he said.
The Poetry Mailbox will contain poems for children and adults; the public is invited to visit the box and choose poems to read while relaxing on a nearby bench or to take poems home. Poem contributions are also welcome. Salper said that the box will feature a wide variety of verse; she likes poems that bring joy and “make us think about our connection to the larger world and other people.” She also favors poems about the Sonoran Desert and the natural world as well as work by local poets that showcases the thriving local literary scene.
Ideally, Salper hopes to see the group’s efforts expand throughout Tucson.
“I believe strongly that poetry unites us and connects us to our community and the shared world and want to encourage and espouse bringing it into public spaces,” she said.