When you think of home, what comes to mind?
For Aimée Appell, pastor at Peace Lutheran Church in Washington, who grew up on the East Coast and spent a lot of time on Chincoteague and Assateague islands, home is “salt spray and wild ponies and tents blowing in the wind.”
But because her mom lived in East Tennessee, home to Appell also means the Appalachian Mountains and the mist on the valley.
For Maria Brady-Smith, a former parent educator with Washington Parents as Teachers who now works at Neighborhood Reads bookstore in Downtown Washington, the word home evokes memories of the house where she grew up, which has since been torn down.
“Since I lived in the same house for 18 years until I went off to college, I can remember every detail,” she said, “the door knobs, the light switches, the carpeting . . . the smell of it.”
The word “home” and the images or feelings that it conjures up are different for each person — maybe even for two people who grew up living in the same home or who live in the same home today.
Appell and Brady-Smith want to celebrate all meanings of the word “home” for a Community Poem Project being sponsored by Missourian In Education, Four Rivers Arts Council and Neighborhood Reads bookstore.
Entries are due by Friday, Feb. 21.
People are asked to include their name, age, how long they have lived locally, as well as where they were born.
Submissions may be mailed to Community Poem, Missourian In Education, P.O. Box 336, Washington, MO, 63090, or hand-delivered to Neighborhood Reads bookstore, 401 Lafayette St., in Downtown Washington.
Appell and Brady Smith, who are spearheading the project, said they are excited to read the variety of entries that come in and how they can use them to create a poem that illustrates and celebrates the different kinds of people living in this area — those who were born and raised here, and others who have moved to the area for whatever reason.
“Part of what we are hoping to accomplish with this is to remind people that Washington is much more than just native born people,” said Appell. “It’s so many people who have come together from so many different places, but we are all making a community here together.
“We want to create a composite of where our community is from, where we are from,” said Appell. “It may be a lot of really opposite things, and that could be really cool.”
Inspired by ‘Crowd-Sourced’ Poem Heard on NPR
Appell suggested the idea of trying to create a community poem after hearing a story last August on NPR with the radio station’s poet laureate, Kwame Alexander.
“They put out a call to listeners to send in some words about what home means to them, and then they took those words and made them into this beautiful crowd-sourced poem,” she said, noting NPR had gotten the idea from a poem called “Where I’m From” by George Ella Lyon.
“When I heard it I thought wouldn’t that be cool to hear that from around Washington and Franklin County, the people here,” said Appell.
In the 10 years that her family has lived in Washington, she has noticed how more and more people who were born in other places, some quite far away, have moved to the area.
“And I thought it would be so cool to hear a poem like that about Washington,” Appell remarked.
Brady-Smith, who writes poetry and has published books of her work, liked the idea too.
“To me, we are a community here, but we are all these different people from all of these different places,” said Brady Smith.
They shared the idea with Dawn Kitchell, educational services director for The Missourian and owner of Neighborhood Reads. She welcomed the Community Poem as a project of the Missourian In Education program.
She has sent the information out to all of the schools who receive The Missourian in their classrooms and asked teachers to encourage their students to submit their comments.
“Home means different things at different stages of our lives,” Kitchell said, “so we felt it was important to have young voices in our community poem.”
Draw on Your Five Senses
If you would like to submit your thoughts on home for the community poem, but aren’t sure where to start, Appell and Brady-Smith suggest starting with the five senses, and use these prompts:
“When I think of home, I see . . . , I hear . . . , I smell . . . , I feel . . . , I taste . . . ”
Or think about the activities that mean “home” to you.
“I lived in several different homes growing up, so I think about the things we did together, like my dad and I would go canoeing a lot and we played soccer,” said Appell, noting that home to her also means “cornbread with green beans and ham hocks,” because her family ate a lot of that.
There is no word limit for entries. People can write as little or much as they would like, said Appell.
Entries do not have to be complete thoughts or sentences. They can be noting more than a short phrase or even a single word.
There really are no rules of what an entry has to be. People can interpret the word “home” however they would like, if they want to reference the home from their childhood or the home they live in now — or they could even reference both, said Brady-Smith.
People are encouraged to write out their entries long-hand, rather than to type them in an email. That is mainly just a way to get people to craft a more well-thought out response, said Appell, but not everybody can do that, so if they need to email it, that is welcome too.
How They Will Create a Poem
A team of poets, including Appell and Brady-Smith, will work together to create the community poem based on all of the entries that are submitted.
Appell and Brady-Smith said they don’t yet have a plan how they will do that. It will depend largely on the number of entries they receive and what people submit.
“We may end up laying them all out on a table and start moving them around, like magnet poetry,” said Appell, with a laugh.
Depending on the length of individual entries, they may not end up using all of what a person submits. In those cases, they will use bits and pieces of an entry.
The finished poem will appear in The Missourian in the Wednesday, April 1 issue, to kick off National Poetry Month.
“We’ve been working over the past few years to create excitement about poetry during April,” Kitchell said. “Publishing a community poem in our local newspaper on the first day of April seemed like a terrific way to start.”
And the poem also may appear other places.
“We may end up sharing it with NPR to say, ‘Look what your story inspired in our community.’ I think they might be really interested in that,” said Appell.
The Community Poem Project is sponsored by Missourian In Education, Four Rivers Arts Council and Neighborhood Reads bookstore.