By Adriana Camacho-Church
A purple push pin holds the poem in place. It sits on the cracked bark of a slim tree near the corner of 4th and North Market Street A typewriter was used for this one.
On the other side of Wilmington, across I-95, a poem is tapped to a wooden weathered telephone post. It stands on the corner of 4th and Bancroft Parkway near St. Thomas the Apostle Church. This one is handwritten on bright pink paper.
Last summer, poems on stone walls, trees, streetlight posts, telephone posts, and graveyard rails began cropping up all over Wilmington. They were written on bright yellow, blue, or other color paper.
Signed by Lindsey Warren, the poems still appear today.
“Have you ever heard of land art?” asks Warren, 36, a poet, writer and multi-media artist. “It was an art movement that came up in the latter half of the 20th century in which artists were taking their work out of the galleries and into nature. Nature would have its way with the pieces. This inspired me to do this with poetry.
“There is so much ugly in the world right now. Let’s bring it (poetry) off of the dead, white-man shelf and into the living, breathing world. Let’s live in it. Poetry is beauty, poetry is life.”
Warren’s street poetry has another, deeper purpose. “I was born here,” she says. “These poems are about Wilmington and the memories I have of growing up here. It’s my way of saying thank you and of acknowledging the things, people, and places that make up my life that make me who I am today.”
The poem on the telephone post starts with the following words:
All stars all winds
pink over the stone steps
of St. Thomas the Apostle Church
where a fire waits detached from heaven
to pierce the heart
A glorious pink-petaled magnolia outside of St. Thomas the Apostle Church stirs Warren’s memory. “It blooms but for a brief time,” says Warren, who came to this church as a child and attended school here. “Yet its message of the coming of spring is loud and profound. It’s a symbol outside of the church that inspires meditation on death, joy and rebirth.
“Divinity is all around us, not just in churches and temples.”
This is the message Warren hopes her street poetry conveys for those who take the time to stop to read it.
“It is in Market Street in the energy of people moving about their lives. It is in the sense of being alive and in participating in the movement of life regardless of where you are or who you are. This energy is hope and connection.”
James Bourey, 74, says he felt very connected to the poem posted outside St. Elizabeth Church on South Broom Street. “It evokes a time and place that resides in my own memory. An aura of sadness, quietness, and a dawning. Images of people stirring, beginning their day. I could go on.”
The poem starts with the words:
turns off a star
where a frosty wind
lost a fang
Bourey describes Warren’s street poetry as “a terrific act of artistic generosity.”
“People will stop and read these poems,” he says. “It’ll be a pause in their day, they’ll consider the beauty of the lines, think about something away from their busy lives. They’ll have a moment of reflection, perhaps be a little surprised. It’s a personal benefit that can carry over into their interactions with others. And adding beauty to city streets is just plain good for the place. I’d like to see it happen all over the country.”
When Warren lived across from St. Francis Hospital on Clayton Street, she witnessed ambulances, people coming and going, traffic and other busyness.
“There was something always going on,” she says. “It was a working corner for the hospital. It made that corner very alive. It gave me a sense of being alive, of participating although I was witnessing. As an artist, we bear witness. It is our job to pay attention.”
At the age of 12 Warren started writing poetry. “I wanted to be a nun at that age and I wrote prayers a lot. Over time my prayers became poems — I guess they still are prayers.
“Poetry is my way of placing my (to quote fellow Delaware artist David Hazardous) ‘fingertips on the lips of the gods.’ It helps me get in contact with the divine, with my desires, with the gorgeous natural world. It allows me to build a space in which my feelings can be strong and thrive.”
Warren has a Master of Fine Arts with a concentration in poetry from Cornell University, where she taught creative writing as part of her master’s program. She has been published in multiple journals, including the American Literary Review and has three collections of poetry published: Unfinished Child, Archangel & the Overlooked (cover art by Delaware artist Kati Driscoll) and Sentence, Forest (cover art by Delaware artist Yarissa Luna).
The recipient of a 2015 Delaware Division of the Arts Emerging Artist fellowship and a finalist for the Joy Harjo Prize, Warren‘s first chapter of her novel-in-progress I Think My Body into Light was published by Litbreak Magazine in 2020.
When not working as a substitute teacher at St. Elizabeth High School in Wilmington, teaching theology, math, and study hall, she holds poetry workshops at local libraries and is the co-founder and co-host of a poetry podcast.
Warren’s dream job? “I like working with creative young people. I would love to be a creative writing teacher.”
— Find Warren’s books at: Amazon.com and Spuytenduyvil.net Listen to her podcast at: Alt-erna-verse.com. Visit her website: lindseywarrenpoetry.com
“Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives.“
—Joseph Campbell, American scholar (1904-1987)