During the month of October, lines of poetry suddenly popped up in many locations in uptown Charlotte. These poetic snippets were part of a larger multi-media project called Of Earth and Sky. The brainchild of British installation artist Luke Jerram, this project originated in the city of Gloucester in the UK in 2020, and it is now touring the world. Jerram envisioned Earth and Sky as a large-scale poetry installation in which he used lines from poems to form a temporary sculpture trail. For more information about Jerram’s vision for this project, please click on the following link: https://www.ofearthandsky.co.uk/
Of Earth and Sky made its American debut in Charlotte thanks to Blumenthal Performing Arts. In preparing for the Charlotte version of this project, the project leaders and poetry curators associated with Blumenthal solicited original poems by Charlotte writers and then used lines from these poems for the installation in uptown. Although the installation came down on October 31, 2021, the project lives on in the form of a newly published book titled Of Earth and Sky: Poetry Anthology 2021. This anthology includes one poem from each of the 200 Charlotte writers who submitted their poetry to the Of Earth and Sky installation project. For more information about the anthology, please click on the following link: https://ofearthandskyclt.com/poetry-book/
The anthology begins with commentary by two of the project leaders. Bree Stallings, the Director of Artistic Experiences at Blumenthal Performing Arts, describes that project as “a small moment of escape, a way of looking at our city, and ourselves, differently, and to remember we were all put on this world to draw metaphor where there is fact, and to make special the mundane.” Boris “Buzz” Rogers, the Director of Creative Engagement at Blumenthal Performing Arts, explains that the leaders of this project “reached out to the entire city of Charlotte and asked its residents … to share their stories—stories of hope, happiness, sadness, love, loss and all the in-between.”
The poems in this anthology are rooted in Charlotte. The poets touch on the experience of living in Charlotte during this current stressful time in our city’s history. Some of the poems are deeply personal. Some capture a special moment in time. Some are spiritual in tone. And some are specifically about Charlotte or places in Charlotte. For example, Jamaal Cowan’s poem, “Heart of the City” is about the experience of sitting “at the corner of Trade and Tryon.”
I think that all of the poets in this anthology rose to the challenge of sharing their stories. The anthology comes in the form of one 145-page book, but in a sense, it provides 200 glimpses of contemporary life in Storied Charlotte.