Ted Scheu’s poem to be preserved in concrete
It was simple and delightful and super-accessible ... Some of the other poems were beautiful in a sort of richer way, but they might have been more challenging for younger kids to really appreciate.
— Dave Hohenschau
MIDDLEBURY — Ted Scheu, by his own count, has written thousands of poems in his 65 years. The prolific writer, educator and children’s poet has a flair for putting words together. And he playfully notes that “Ted Scheu” rhymes with “poetry guy.”
Well, the poetry guy will blaze a new trail later this winter. For the first time ever, Scheu will see one of his poems etched into the very fabric of his hometown. As winner of the first phase of the “Word on the Street” project, Scheu’s poem titled “My Place to Fly” will be engraved in the Main Street sidewalk outside of Middlebury’s Ilsley Public Library.
“I haven’t had anything of mine written in stone since I carved a Valentine’s heart in my hometown sidewalk with a rock in first grade,” Scheu said of the lasting tribute that will be coming his way. “Just getting one’s words in print is hard enough and a big deal. This is way funner.”
Here’s his poem:
My Place to Fly
is where I go
to launch myself and fly.
I swoop and loop
above the earth
a thousand stories high.
“Word on the Street” is made possible through a $15,000 grant from the Vermont Arts Council and the combined efforts of local planner Dave Hohenschau and the group known as Middlebury UndergrounD, or MUD. Organizers invited local poets of all ages and abilities to submit works that were vetted by a panel of eight jurists that included poets, authors and Ilsley Library representatives.
This was a blind process, meaning that the judges didn’t know who wrote the poems.
This first phase of “Word on the Street” was geared toward the Ilsley library. Contest entrants were asked to submit poems that summarized their love of the library.
The winner’s payoff: A $200 prize and the knowledge that their prosaic love letter to all things Ilsley would be etched in the sidewalk beneath the library’s front steps.
In all, 33 area poets ages seven to 80 entered “Word on the Street.” Scheu’s poem “My Place to Fly” rose to the top.
The poem will be engraved sometime in the next few months by Nathan Christner of MergeCrete, depending on weather.
Hohenschau said the jury appreciated the fact that Scheu’s poem spoke to multiple generations.
“It was simple and delightful and super-accessible,” he said. “Considering the span of ages that the library serves, people got the feeling it was very accessible, even to little kids to be able to read it and appreciate it. Some of the other poems were beautiful in a sort of richer way, but they might have been more challenging for younger kids to really appreciate.”
The next phase of the “Word on the Street” contest will focus on one of the most scenic spots in downtown Middlebury — the Frog Hollow area fronting the Otter Creek Falls. The winning poem will be engraved at the south end of the footbridge, between the Stone Mill and Edgewater Gallery, on the path leading onto the bridge.
“We are asking people to write a poem that is for that specific location,” Hohenschau said. “There is so much to inspire in that spot that I’m excited to see what people come up with.”
“Phase two” of the contest is now under way, with a deadline of Feb. 29 for submissions.
Entrants should send an email to [email protected] to receive a reply with the new contest information. They can also get that info at the Stone Mill building or the library.
The $15,000 Vermont Arts Council grant will help the community pay for a total of five poem contest engravings. But Hohenschau stressed the need for donations, which will be matched dollar-for-dollar through a separate grant from Ioby.org and ArtPlace. Donations can be made at ioby.org/project/word-street-middlebury-vt.
Hohenschau said the Ilsley Library and MUD were “amazing partners” during the contest. Scheu was an enthusiastic participant from the get-go, and said he would donate his prize money to the library.
“From the moment I heard of the project, I was thrilled. I absolutely love the idea of celebrating local poetry around town in such a fun, visible way — not with the verses of famous poets, but with the words and thoughts of our many talented local poets of all ages.
“Was I surprised and thrilled to win the ‘front steps’ round? Absolutely,” he added. “And utterly honored. I’m sure the competition was stiff and it will be for all the other sites too. I hope the judges continue to get lots of entries, especially from young poets.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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