Celebrating poems

Six original poems will be added to the award-winning “Hear, Here” oral history project created by a UWL professor and her students.

Six winning submissions to be added to La Crosse’s ‘Hear, Here’ project

There are new ghosts in the Mississippi
and all day they play unimaginable, underwatery
games with each other.

Come night, the moon releases them, old and new
from the grip of the river….

Every night they waiver through
small-town side-streets back to the small taverns
They stand impossibly still with a twenty-dollar bill
dripping on the bar, wondering why no one will serve them.

– From “Ophelia Soft” by David Krump (originally published in “Colorado Review”)

Krump’s piece is one of six original poems selected to add to a collection of oral histories in downtown La Crosse as part of the award winning “Hear, Here” oral history project created by a UWL professor and her students. The poems will be celebrated as part of Artspire, a community arts celebration on Saturday, June 10.

After a community-wide poetry contest that received nearly 50 submissions, the six poems will be added to the downtown archive of stories. Poems being honored include:

  • First prize: David Krump, “Ophelia Soft”
  • Second prize: Kyle Constalie, “Into Collision”
  • Third prize (tie): Susan Houlihan, “River Walk” and Teagan Daly, “Trauma Center”
  • Honorable mentions: Mai Chao, “Two Rivers” and Gene Falkenberg, “Untitled (back in 1966)”

Poetry contest organizers Ariel Beaujot, associate professor of History, and William Stobb, associate professor of English, asked for poems that give a voice to personal and public histories, or that engage downtown La Crosse landmarks or events.

Krump wrote the poem while dealing with the death by drowning of one of his best friends. Seated at a tavern on a rainy spring day, he had just read the newspaper account of another body of a young man pulled from the city’s river.

“This poem responds to what, at the time, amounted to a repetition of death by water, a sort of deadly ritual from which no one re-emerges,” he explains. “Some called it alcohol but the simple explanations aren’t always the ones we require as a species.”

Krump says poetry allows people to process history differently — pulling from the events a necessary or vital essence.

“Poetry is bound by that directive, but liberated by its ability to move beyond ‘On this date, X happened. X is significant because Y,’” he says. “Neither is poetry bound by existence of temporal facts. A difficult statement to make in the current age, but one that I believe to be at least partially valid.”

Poetry readings planned

A celebration of the winning poems will be held Saturday, June 10, at Artspire. A schedule of poetry readings and locations includes:

  • 1-1:15 p.m. – A small group will gather near the eagle in Riverside Park to present on-site readings of three of the winning poems which were set in Riverside park.
  • 1:30-1:45 p.m. – The group will move to Pearl Street where they’ll stage another short reading in front of Jules Coffee House featuring poems that were set near that location.
  • 3:15-3:30 p.m. – Prize winners will be honored at the Artspire stage.

The poems will also be published in Steam Ticket, a nationally distributed journal featuring both award-winning and emerging writers that is created by a team of UWL student editors and readers in English 320: Literary Journal Production/Publication.

“Hear, Here” started as a project in one of Ariel Beaujot’s history classes in 2014. Beaujot and her classes have collected more than three dozen stories. The project has received the Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History.

Poems will be added to the “Hear, Here” archive at the end of June. All stories and poetry identified on La Crosse streets with orange-colored street signs have toll-free numbers allowing people to use their cellular phones to listen to recorded stories from everyday people who worked, lived and shopped the streets. The “Hear, Here” project is always open for additional story submissions. Learn more at http://www.hearherelacrosse.org/.