“Floating from the heavens, wildly dancing round,” the first message read. It was written by Mateo Martinez, a Santa Fe High 12th grader.
Soon, his name would figure alongside Santa Fe poet laureate Jon Davis and faculty chair at SFUAD’s Creative Writing and Literature Department, Dana Levin.
With the mission of presenting our city as a “living book,” the SITE Spread 3.0 winning initiative emblazoned compact yet insightful literary tidbits on some 60 windows at 40 buildings around town, using canned spray snow as medium.
Twelve months later, Snow Poems is the subject of a postcard book and a winter-themed slam dubbed “Poetry Storm” unveiling this Sunday at Collected Works.
Tsong, the founder and director of Cut+Paste Society, admits in hindsight surprise over pulling off the project.
“It was only this year that I could look back and really appreciate the scope of the project. There was so much going on last year, and the project kept growing, we were constantly trying to keep up with it,” she says. “There wasn’t time to think whether it could happen or not. Since we had won the Spread 3.0 grant, there was the initial money for me to totally focus on directing the project.”
Aided by the Santa Fe Art Institute, Tsong saw in the initiative a chance for people to interact with their stagnant urban surroundings. She also considered it a “Mom’s reaction to the Occupy movement.”
“It had a life of its own,” she says. “People had conversations and images circulated that I didn’t see but were out in the world.”
Though arduous, the project brought with it a feeling of accomplishment for Tsong and her team.
“I loved the process of putting up poems. Every time the interns or I peeled off the stencil letters, it was magical, as if seeing each word for the very first time,” Tsong muses. “It was a relief to hear the interns’ joy, so I knew it was worth it for them.”
Each poem took around two hours to set up. “The work was so concentrated, that we would leave exhausted as if having taken standardized tests,” Tsong jokes.
People stopped, read and engaged, making the citywide project a success. Moreover, satellite poetry workshops, school outreach programs and walking tours made the experience an immersive, albeit a short-lived one (the poems were washed off at the beginning of spring.)
“The temporary installation of poetry connected us with one another through our public spaces,” Tsong says. “The poems are gone now, but [they] can live on and continue to create human connection, being sent off to friends and family.”
Presenting the images in postcard form was not accidental.
“With postcards, the aesthetic and social experience of the snow poems disseminate into the world into private spaces,” Tsong says. “The original idea was to have a book of all the poems, but Sydney Cooper had the great idea of doing a souvenir postcard book.”
The move brought with it its own set of printing difficulties.
Again, in a mad dash, Tsong is “praying that they will be ready on Sunday.”
Sixteen poets are scheduled to appear as part of the day’s “Poetry Storm” section. In keeping with the project’s community feel, the roster includes both seasoned sonneteers and “up and coming talents” in the form of Turquoise Trail Charter and New Mexico School for the Arts students.
The event, designed to fund future Snow Poems, Tsong says, is the perfect literary winter retreat—sleds optional.
“Come on out,” she says. “Let’s play!”
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SNOW POEMS POSTCARD BOOK LAUNCH + POETRY STORM
2pm Sunday, Jan. 12
Collected Works Bookstore
202 Galisteo St., 988-4226