Introducing Po-Art

By Annie Newcomer:

Po-Art Angel by Bruce McClain

Po-Art: Part 1

After meeting Joaquín Zihuatanejo at the Austin International Poetry Festival, I was determined to bring him and his poetry to Kansas City, Missouri, for our students and community. Crosby Kemper (then Director of the KCMO Library System), Martha Jalali (Professor of Social Justice Studies at the University of Kansas), and my husband extraordinaire, David, helped this occur at the Kansas City Plaza Library, Pembroke Hill, and Cristo Rey schools.

During the children’s poetry event, Joaquín told me that he hoped one day to have enough extra money in his pocket to invite his whole class out for ice cream. So we decided that “ice cream on the house” for the students and their families should happen that very evening. After creating their poems, we gathered up belongings, young poets, and their families and Joaquín shared his idea with them.

As everyone excitedly headed off to TCBY to partake in our ice-cream feast, one in the group, an aunt who had brought her young niece and nephew, pulled me aside. She explained that she and her children could not stay for ice cream; they had come by bus and needed to hurry in order to be on time to catch the bus back home. The three thanked me profusely for the opportunity to meet Joaquín. The children were happy, and I could see that they loved their aunt. Obvious, too, was that they did not have a lot of money. I reflected on the reality of my having invited many people to the event who lived close by, had no money issues, and yet hadn’t come. As I watched this family scurry off for the bus stop as the night shade fell upon us, a deep emotion enveloped me from witnessing the joy that was poetry so evident in them. I went right home and began trying to catch the spirit of this experience in a permanent way.

Po-Art was born that night.

This caring aunt, babysitting her niece and nephew on a warm Kansas City Spring Friday evening, chose poetry over any other activity for the children in her care despite any inconvenience.

I wonder where these children are now and what they are each writing and drawing?

Po-Art represents the angel who takes us to the bus stop, waits patiently, and then hops the bus with us on a journey of exploration into Poetry, a place where we can find solace and joy even in difficult and inconvenient times.

Po-Art is a concept that reminds us to cherish our histories.

Encouraging one another to pick up our pencils and begin writing our stories and creating art is my vision for Po-Art. The many unique ways we discover to share is the journey. This idea stems from my belief that our individual life’s work is blessed when we inspire others to share their stories too.

I asked artist Bruce McClain to draw the Po-Art symbol after a good deal of discussion on the concept with him. For this article, Bruce explained his design:

“I always looked upon angels as foreign ministers, emissaries sent on missions to comfort God’s people. There are many examples given in the bible of God sending angels to serve as messengers to comfort and protect those who love Him. So, when I think of angels, I'm reminded they come in different forms, and visit us even when we are not expecting them. The idea of drawing an angel with a pencil was a moment of inspiration and perhaps reminiscence for me.”

This Po-Art series is a gathering of poems, illustrations, and prose shared to gently touch your soul during this time of coronavirus. In the following weeks, poets Trish Miller, Paula Anderson, Brooke Herter James, Jamie Heller, and Clara Rabbini, Stephany Hughes and other poets I've collaborated with