Americans celebrate National Poetry Month in April, and the Hoosier State has found an engaging way to participate in this year’s festivities.
For the “All Together Now, Indiana” project, Matthew Graham, Indiana’s poet laureate and professor emeritus of English at the University of Southern Indiana, and Indiana Humanities took inspiration from a group of surrealist poets in 1920s Paris who created a writing exercise they called the “exquisite corpse.” Each writer crafted two lines of poetry, concealing the first line with a fold in the paper and passing it to the next writer who did the same. At the end of the exercise, the paper was unfurled, revealing a linked, yet spontaneous and surprising, piece of work.
To celebrate this year’s National Poetry Month, Graham and Indiana Humanities have called on fellow Hoosiers to create a patchwork poem that expresses Indiana’s collective identity. Called simply “Indiana,” contributors are invited to read the last two lines submitted and tack on the next stanza of their own making. Although Graham says it was unintentional, he agrees that this style of composition ties into the spirit of collaboration that has emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“That’s why, when I was describing it, I used the metaphor of a quilt. It’s such an Indiana thing, adding their patch to the overall picture. Quilts are a part of families, part of communities,” Graham says. “And it’s not necessarily all going to be positive. It’s important to include all of it.”
Graham contributed the first two lines of the poem: “It all comes back to Indiana — the sycamores, the candlelight, the buttermilk skies.”
When Evansville Living logged onto Indiana Humanities’ website on April 10, the poem’s most recent author had left us with: “Neighbors create my extended family / The dogs and cats working their way into belonging to us all.”
We added: “Brilliantly colored spring days spent moving from one front porch to the next. / Crisp fall nights swapping stories while huddled around a campfire.”
“Indiana” is open for two-line submissions through April 22. What will the final result be? We’ll have to wait and read: The entire poem won’t be revealed until April 30.
Photo provided by Matthew Graham.