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Improving State of Mind: An Interview with Poetry on the Streets

Poetry on the Streets (POTS) is an interactive poetry writing exhibit created in 2017 by Melanie Faranello. We briefly spoke with Melanie who is gearing up to participate in this year’s Art on the Streets. Find out what Melanie has been up to below:

Can you tell us what Poetry on the Streets has been working on recently?

Poetry on the Streets is continuing to set up around downtown Hartford in various locations during the week. Over the winter, I visited a college class at Westfield State U which was a fun change of pace. A few favorite spots for POTS are along Main Street, the bus stop in front of the Hartford Public Library, Bushnell Park, and Pratt Street. I’m also working on preparing for Poetry on the Streets’ first gallery show. It will be held at Charter Oak Cultural Center and will showcase the poems people have written alongside their photographs. I’m excited to share the collection—beautiful expressions from so many different people who have engaged with POTS over the past two years. I hope the gallery show will highlight the common human experience we all share.

What is Poetry on the Streets’ dream project?

My dream project for Poetry on the Streets is to travel to different cities, set up POTS and collect poems from people all across the country…actually, from all over the world! Also, a big coffee table book: a compilation of people’s poems with their photographs. I’d read a book like that. Sometimes, I flip through the hundred or so poems I’ve collected and find one that speaks to me that day in an emotional way. My dream is to keep going and engaging as many people in as many places as possible.

What memorable response have you gotten from your work?

A big part of what keeps me committed to the project is the response people have after interacting with Poetry on the Streets. People feel better! There is a palpable sense of release after writing their poems. They want to be heard. They want to share themselves — their voices — they want to connect. This truth has become so apparent. Surprisingly, the majority of people want to leave their finished poems with me rather than take them. They want others to read them. They want to share their words. The responses are individual, but the overall feeling of improved mood and state of mind are the same.  

The responses are individual, but the overall feeling of improved mood and state of mind are the same.  

What are you most excited about for this year’s Art on the Street?

 I love Art on the Streets. It brings such an eclectic vibrant energy to Hartford and draws people together through art, music, dance, writing, crafts…I’m most excited about seeing all the different exhibits…the postcards, mixed media, printmaking, and spoken word are wonderful, and I’m looking forward this year to seeing the weaving project as well as the dance, meditation, and of course, the bands. It’s an amazing force of creativity that brings the city together in such a unique and inspiring way.  

How do you think the Arts supports health and wellness within the community?

The Arts support health and wellness within the community by providing a creative outlet for emotional expression. Engaging in the arts (music, visual art, writing…) has been proven to reduce stress, help people cope with trauma, and improve both mental and physical health. Working as a teaching artist with young people in Hartford, I’ve seen the impact the arts can have directly on youth and teens in terms of feelings of empowerment, creating positive self-image and awareness of their voices as ones that matter and have the power to create positive change. Connecting the arts with community organizations can be a powerful way to impact wellness within a community.

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