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At the core of Green Wood’s mission is connecting people through their stories, so what could work better than going out into the community to encourage people to tell their story – and offer it up to them in the form of poetry?

Equipped with vintage typewriters, five Green Wood Coalition poets did exactly that at the Shelter Valley Folk Festival on Labour Day weekend and will repeat the pop-up art form, called Short Order Poetry, at Cultivate, September 22-24 in Port Hope.

One of the poets, Gareth Vieira, says the experience proved as meaningful for him as for the people whose poems he wrote. The poetry team hadn’t expected the fast pace – writing non-stop for about three hours –- but the idea struck a chord, and even families were sitting down to tell the poets their stories.

A three-year-old named Rosie, fascinated by an old fashioned wind mill at the festival, couldn’t stop talking about it – so Gareth included it in the family’s poem. They loved it.

“It’s definitely collaboration between the poet and the people being interviewed,” says Gareth, who believes each poet brings a unique approach to the experience.

“Some people went deeper with their questions than others. For me, all I wanted to do was please people, and some of the people were very moved by the poems.”

Often beginning with the question, What brought you here to this moment?, the poet and person would talk for 15 minutes and then leave the poet to capture the essence of the conversation – pecked out on the typewriter in full public view. At Shelter Valley, each poem was given an identifying number for anonymity and hung on a clothesline, both as a public art installation and a personal gift for the person to take.

“One of the greatest tenets of Green Wood is that everyone is equal. We don’t judge people by their station in life,” Gareth explains. “You go to a community dinner and a person on one side of you may be in a very difficult time in their life. You are there to be community and just to be a friend. And so with the poetry, you base it just on what the person gives to you. It’s very in the moment. It is just ‘being.’”

Cultivate: A Festival of Food & Drink happens in Port Hope’s Memorial Park, September 22-24.

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