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Telepoem Booth to Bring Poetry to Downtown State College

by Geoff Rushton

A new project will bring another artistic attraction to downtown State College and allow visitors to dial up a poem.

A Telepoem Booth will be installed this spring, thanks to a grant from Knight Foundation Donor-Advised Fund at Centre Foundation. The phone booth lets anyone step inside, choose a poem from a directory, dial the number and hear the poem.

Retired art teacher and State College resident John Ziegler discovered the idea on a trip to Flagstaff, Ariz., where artist Elizabeth Hellstern created the first Telepoem Booth. The one in State College, location to be determined, will be the second in the nation.

“The Telepoem Booth is an interactive art project,” Ziegler explained. “It will provide our community with great accessible poetry, contemporary and classic, through a nostalgic delivery. Much of the work will come from local poets at [Penn State], the public and private schools as well as the poets living in our retirement communities, and also well-known poetry from the public domain.”

Ziegler is leading the project along with Sarah Russell, Steve Deutsch, Katie Bode-Lang and Mary McGuire. They will be collecting local poetry submissions and coordinating the recordings by accepted poets before finalizing the installation of the booth in the spring.

“This booth will add another element of whimsical fun and art to downtown State College,” Centre Foundation Executive Director Molly Kunkel said in a release.

Ziegler added that he was excited to have the foundation support an art project that can be enjoyed by all.

“The grant through Centre Foundation has made possible a project that benefits people of all ages right in the heart of downtown State College,” he said.

Poetry submissions are due by Jan. 1 using an online form. Submissions are open to all local community members, from children to retirees, and up to five poems may be submitted.

Each poem should be no more than 40 lines. Any topic is encouraged, but sexually graphic and/or hateful content will not be considered. Previously published poems may be submitted, with credit given to the original publisher, and all rights will be retained by the author.

“Poems on any topic are welcome, as long as they fit the submission criteria,” Russell said. “This includes narrative, free and rhymed verse, and slam poetry. We want folks to have fun and maybe even be inspired when they pick up the receiver and dial a poem.”

For more information, email [email protected] or visit the project’s Facebook page.

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