I love it when a project of unassuming origins takes on a life of its own.
My “paper roses” haiku, which the Italian haiku poet Elisa Allo recently featured and translated into Italian on her blog, Ama no gawa, recently found itself in the middle of such a project. Little did I know that my haiku contains a pun that is impossible to translate into Italian. Elisa presented the haiku with a beautiful graphic and an explanatory note about the translation:
My “paper roses” haiku might not have come about in the first place had it not been for the phenomenal artwork a group of Columbus-area elementary school students and a recent event of the Ohio Poetry Association.
In April, the Ohio Poetry Association published a statewide anthology of ekphrastic poems (poems inspired by other works of art), A Rustling and Waking Within. The anthology was a project many years in the making and was guided into the world with selfless love and generosity by editor Sharon Fish Mooney.
The anthology launch party last month at Columbus’ Wexner Center for the Arts (“the Wex”) featured poets, including myself, from all around Ohio reading aloud poems in the anthology.
In the run-up to the event, I volunteered to acquire flowers to adorn the small reception tables where poets would gather to nosh and sip before and after the readings. Unable to secure a donation of real flowers, I turned to Plan B: paper flowers.
I asked one of my co-workers if her husband, an elementary school art teacher, might think it a good project for some of his art students to make a few dozen paper flowers for the anthology launch party. It just so happened that one of his classes of third graders loves to do origami – so much so that their teacher often has to collect any artwork they create on paper right after they finish it, lest they fold it into something else!
Moreover, my colleague’s husband knew just the right pattern for paper flowers, one which he himself made many times and sold at modest cost. Over the next few weeks, Jon Juravich, the art teacher at Liberty Tree Elementary School in Powell, Ohio, led his students in making three dozen paper flowers, which they then donated to the Ohio Poetry Association for use at the anthology launch party. As you can see from the photo Jon took, the students’ work is simply gorgeous.
But the final presentation was stunning. Jon hot glued the paper “blooms” onto tree twigs he had painted black. I placed one or two stems into each of several tall bud vases and placed a vase on each of the small tables at the Wex. Quite simply, the students’ flowers were a hit.
At the anthology launch, I asked OPA president Chuck Salmons and other organizers of the event to sign a thank-you card for Jon and his students. For my part, I wrote an original haiku – my “paper roses” haiku, which Elisa Allo later featured and translated into Italian – inspired by the students’ phenomenal paper flowers. Jon shared the thank-yous, kudos, and haiku to his students.
Fast-forward to April 30, when the Ohio poet Beverly Zeimer’s chapbook the Wildness of Flowers was published by the Cleveland-area publisher NightBallet Press.
On the cover of Beverly’s chapbook, in the center of a swirl of gardenia blossoms, is a picture of one of the vases of the Powell students’ paper roses sitting on one of the tables at the OPA anthology launch party.
So, finding flowers (or rather failing to find flowers) for a major poetry event inspired a creative project for some talented third-graders, which both turned into a haiku inspired by the paper flowers they made and which is now translated into a foreign language on a blog an ocean away, and became cover art for a poet’s chapbook published right here in Ohio.
Somewhere in this story is a lesson about synchronicity. But here’s the most powerful lesson: positive energy begets positive energy, and the creative spirit, when embraced, nurtured, and loved, cannot be stopped.
I thank Elisa Allo for welcoming my “paper roses” so beautifully into the world, and I thank Jon Juravich and the third grade art students at Liberty Tree Elementary School for their talent, generosity, and inspiration.