In college it can be hard to find a spare moment. A moment to rest, a moment to create and a moment to reflect. Life gets busy, and there are papers to write, exams to study for and jobs to complete. Amidst the hustle and the bustle of everyday life, one local poet has found a way to sneak art and poetry into the lives of college students and street-walkers alike. The owner of the instagram account @poe_a_tree, who will be referred to by “S,” started a poetry project a few years back in order to reach out to the community and give people that sought-after (but often passed by) moment of peace in a busy day. S hopes that, through his work, he can show people that poetry is not just a dusty, old bland collection of words, but something modern and cool that anyone can enjoy. Beyond that, the goal of the project is also to inspire the community to take time to read, to go beyond what is comfortable and to foster creativity that can be shared with the world. Around Hope’s campus, there are many trees. For S, the trees serve as a blank canvas and a platform for his project.
The basis of the project is simple: S picks poems from a wide range of poets, some very famous and others not so much. And no, despite the name, the owner of @poe_a_tree does not just use poems by Edgar Allan Poe. Once S picks a poem, he writes it out and enhances the page with his own original artwork, specifically catered to that poem. The last step is to hang the poem somewhere on a tree for the viewing pleasure of anyone who passes by. And there you have it: But how did this project begin? S has been a lover of poetry for many years, and he has written his own original poetry as an outlet for his creative energy and emotion. Before moving to Holland, S had a career as a truck driver, which could get lonely at times. Reading poetry and other books helped time pass by more quickly and enjoyably during the long hours of work and silence. Taking this into context, it’s no surprise that S wants to share poetry with others and get people excited about poetry as well. His first posted poem on a tree was actually the result of a joke that a friend made, but after that, there was no going back. Leaving poems on trees is a way to leave a tangible mark on the world, according to S, and so the tradition of posting poems was kept alive right here in Holland, Michigan.
When I asked S about the messages he wants to convey through his poems, he boiled it down to a few points. First, he wants to “expand the idea that poetry is for everyone.” This is one reason why he uses a diverse variety of poets. Using the works of poets of all different races, genders and backgrounds is a way to grow cultural appreciation. S says that “beauty comes from every culture,” so that is something that he wants people to see in his project. S also wants to encourage people to place importance on creativity in everyday life. Often the most difficult part of being creative is simply getting the motivation to start a project. As S puts it, “doing it is half the battle.” Beautiful things happen when people push past their comfort zones and begin to let themselves create, not comparing themselves to others but rather using their individual and unique talents to bring an idea to life. S shares that a valuable lesson he learned is that it is never better to “copy what others do.” You should work to “find your own voice.” For those who have trouble getting the creative juices flowing, a tip that S recommended is to write something every day or create a piece of your own art.