Old Town hosts poetry contest
After several months of preparation and planning, members of the Old Town Neighborhood Association say they're ready to move forward on a project to inscribe three 'poetry tiles' on sidewalks along Durham Street.
The locations have been picked out, the funding is in place and an artist is on standby, says association vice-chairman Dick Reamer. "We've got three spots picked out in the neighborhood already, with fresh new concrete," he says.
Now they just need to pick the poems.
To do that, the neighborhood is teaming up with the Lake Oswego Public Library to host a poetry contest starting later this month and inviting any interested Lake Oswego resident to participate. Three winners will be chosen to be etched into the sidewalk tiles in Old Town.
The author's name and address must be included with the submission, although an author may request that their name not be engraved in the sidewalk. Submitted poems need to have a title with a maximum of 32 characters, and entrants can also include an optional short description of why they entered.
The final deadline to submit poems is April 15.
The winning poems will be chosen by a judging committee consisting of local historian and Old Town resident Marylou Colver, Library Director Bill Baars and Lake Oswego Planning Director Scot Siegel, who is also an accomplished poet with several published works.
One of the three winners will be chosen from a separate youth category for poets under the age of 18. Entrants who wish to be judged in this category will need to include their age as of April 15, along with their other submission information.
Once the winners have been selected, the contest organizers say they want to hold a ceremony at the library where the winners can read their poems. The engraving will be done after that, with a separate unveiling event.
According to Reamer and Old Town Neighborhood Association chairman Craig Stephens, the poetry project was inspired by a similar project in Richfield, Minn. Thirteen poems were chosen by that city's Arts Commission and sandblasted into the sidewalk during a reconstruction project in 2016.
"We had the idea in the spring (of 2017)," Reamer says.
TriMet also included a similar project during construction of the MAX Orange Line, although the engraved words were 'poetic phrases' that tended to be shorter than the poems envisioned for the Old Town project.
In this case, the artwork will be installed on an existing sidewalk, which is slightly more difficult, Stephens says. But the choice of relatively newly poured tiles will make the process easier.
To fund the project, the neighborhood association applied for one of the City's annual Neighborhood Enhancement Program grants last summer; the City approved the idea and authorized a $2,500 grant to pay for the work. In order to qualify for the grant, the group had to make sure that the project complied with the NEP rules, which prohibit projects that would require expenditures by the City.
"A project couldn't involve City maintenance," Reamer says. "They don't want to have to water it or mow it."
The City's approval was subject to a couple of requirements, including performing several test etchings to prove that the engravings would not cut any deeper than one eighth of an inch into the sidewalk, in order to keep the area in compliance with ADA regulations. Deeper etchings could run the risk of causing cracks, Stephens says, which could be a tripping hazard.
The three spots were chosen due to their proximity to a series of historical placards that are already installed in the neighborhood as part of the City's Iron Heritage Trail. Each sidewalk panel will be slightly to the left of a nearby placard, Reamers says.
"The engraving will be done by Fred Bass, a local artist who has worked on a large number of brick and tile engraving projects at sites throughout the Portland area — including in Lake Oswego, where he engraved the commemorative bricks and tiles outside the Lakewood Center for the Arts. In fact, that's how the neighborhood discovered his work.
"I happened to be over at the Lakewood Center and saw Fred Bass engraving the bricks," Stephens says. "Turns out he's done a lot of work in Lake Oswego."