By Gene Axton, Wilkes-Barre Times Leader
WILKES-BARRE — Homes turned to rubble, memories landed in muck and beloved locations ruined — rather than addressing the events of a flood directly with his contribution to this year’s Poetry in Transit collection, Nanticoke resident Harold Jenkins’ “After the Flood” aimed a spotlight at the corners of life that encroaching waters run into and disrupt.
The 48-year-old writes from experience, letting memories of the 1972 and 2011 floods break through to his six-line poem. “After the Flood” is one of 15 works by local writers chosen for the flood-themed 2016 Poetry in Transit collection. To experience them in a deluge, attend the 5 p.m. Aug. 19 launch at Barnes & Noble, 7 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre. To read each as their levees lift, go with the public transit flow; each month will bring a new poem to select ad spaces on Luzerne County Transit Authority buses.
This year marks Poetry in Transit’s 10th anniversary; Wilkes University English Department Chair Mischelle Anthony created the event when she overheard two LCTA bus riders discussing a McDonald’s advertisement and thought it’d be nice to hear people discuss poetry in a similar manner.
For the next year, local poets including Jenkins and Sugar Loaf resident Sara Pisak will provide possible topics of conversation. Pisak’s selected contribution, “Saturate,” focuses on the destructive power of a river she described as peaceful in her submission.
“I’d say my poem this year focuses on innocence versus inexperience,” Pisak said. “I kind of compare the watermarks of a river or a flood to a child making a mark on the wall marking their growth. That’s a thing that I focused on more this year instead of generally describing the river in terms of beauty and calm.”
A selection committee comprised of representatives from Kings College, Luzerne County Community College, Misericordia University and Penn State University’s Wilkes-Barre campus vetted poems from Jenkins, Pisak and 13 other poets.
Mark Golaszewski, of Nanticoke, worked with the poets to design the ad-sized poem placards and photographs the images that accompany each.
“I’m always excited when Mischelle asks me to be part of it every year because it forces me to think differently than I normally think,” said Golaszewski, a former Wilkes University employee who now works at Penn State University’s main campus. “Sometimes I really have to stretch my creativity because poems are inherently pretty surreal.”
Golaszewski smashed plates in his backyard for Laurel Run resident Lia Sminkey’s poem “Sorry” and visited a cemetery in Forty Fort to collect accompaniment for a stanza by Kings College student Therese Roughsedge entitled “An Aching Drift.” The 15 picture/poem placards will flow through LCTA buses until next year, when Anthony builds another theme for the local writing community to flood with submissions.