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When It Rains, the Sonnet Shines

Next time it rains around campus, look down. You might be standing on a stanza.

Emerson is partnering with Mass Poetry to present Raining Poetry, a public art installation in conjunction with National Poetry Month (April). Poems written by Emerson students and faculty have been stenciled onto sidewalks using a proprietary substance that is only visible when wet.

“Maybe when it’s a rainy day you have some incentive to come check out the poems,” said Jordan Escobar, a third-year MFA student in Creative Writing whose poem, “Binomial Nomenclature” was included in the project.

Raining Poetry, which is going up across the city of Boston, ties in with Emerson’s public art initiative. This spring, the College’s Public Art Think Tank (PATT) has brought its first public artist-in-residence, street artist Cedric Douglas, to campus; has hosted an “Art and Activism” panel featuring local artists and an art activism scholar; and next week, hosts two of Elisa H. Hamilton’s Dance Spots.

The poetry project came about through Emerson’s involvement in the Boston Literary District, a consortium of literary organizations, libraries, and educational institutions, of which Mass Poetry is also a member.

“It’s important to get the poems out and let the poets participate in this movement of public art and social art that Emerson is moving into,” said Professor Tom Kingdon, assistant dean of the School of the Arts, “so that we not only project images on the Little Building and down the Boylston alley, but that we also manage to support our poets in a public art forum.”

Kingdon was kneeling on Boylston Street in front of Boston Common Wednesday afternoon, stenciling Nicole Lucca’s poem, “Momentum,” onto a section of sidewalk.

Lucca ’19, a Creative Writing major, said she wrote her poem while doing a semester at Kasteel Well in the Netherlands, and it sums up a lot of the feelings she has about Boston. It’s also apropos that it’s being installed steps from the Boylston T station, she said.

“[The poem] is just kind of about how we’re all just in a hurry, kind of passing by each other; we’re all absorbed in our own stuff,” Lucca said.

Escobar said students were invited by the Writing, Literature and Publishing (WLP) Department to submit a poem of no longer than 12 lines for consideration. “Binomial Nomenclature” is a reference to Carl Linnaeus’s system of sorting living things by genus and species.

“I kind of used it as a metaphor for how we categorize people. We make these definitions that are kind of fluid [and] in the end, they can be fallible,” he said.

In addition to Lucca and Escobar, other featured poets are Jaime Zuckerman, a second-year MFA student, and Writing, Literature and Publishing faculty members Daniel Tobin, John Skoyles, and Christine Casson.

Kingdon said he had no idea how the spray he was using to lay down verses worked. But he was told the poems would last a month or so, depending on weather and foot traffic, before gradually wearing away. 

“It’s kind of nice just to let it disappear as part of the environment,” he said.

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