Poetry is Just a Phone Call Away

Photo by Jess Cartwright

As you move into the semester, it is important to remember to take care of yourself as well as your school work. One of the most beneficial ways to relax is through literature. It not only helps take some time for yourself, but it also expands your knowledge and vocabulary. With so many choices from novels, travel guides, how to books, and poetry, it is impossible not to find something you enjoy.

If you don’t like to turn pages, Valley has discovered a fun alternative at the Webster’s Bookstore and Café in downtown State College: a Telepoem Booth. Ever wonder what happened to all the old timey Telephone Booths that lined the streets? Well, Valley is happy to say that they are being repurposed into attractions that bring the community together.

It works like this: in the booth, there is a list of poems each connected to a number, pick one that you want to hear and dial that number into the phone, the phone then plays a recording of the author reading the poem directly to you.

Elaine Meder-Wilgus, the owner of Webster’s and happy host of the Telepoem Booth, says, “When you walk into the booth, you’re alone and the directory is full of names, titles, and numbers. Poems force someone to listen, and this might be the greatest reward of the booth: a brief moment to listen and be still.”

The Telepoem Booth in State College is only the second one in the country and was created by an artist in Arizona. She felt that having a “hands-on” experience by choosing and dialing a poem, and then an auditory experience in listening to a poem enhances the overall artistic experience for the listener.

Sarah Russell, one of the committee members for the project, says, “Poetry is meant to be spoken, and this medium lets the listener experience poetry in a very different way.  As an added perk, having to look in a directory, dial a poem phone number on an old-fashioned payphone, and the ‘connection’ of the person to the poet via a receiver and a cord is a unique way to participate in the poetry experience.”

The next period for adding to their Telepoem collection is going to happen this fall, if you are interested in submitting a poem for the booth go their Facebook page, @Telepoem Booth State College. They will make an announcement within the next month as to when poets can send in their poems and the submission criteria.

Literature opens doors to other worlds and expands your horizons beyond your own culture. Reading—or listening—is a way to be transported somewhere outside of yourself and connect to those that live around you.