“The neighbors give me parsley.”
“Your spring rolls are divine.”
“I told you that your butterflies were pure.”
On Halloween this year, 100 yellow signs appeared in lawns and windows scattered throughout the St. Paul’s Midway neighborhood, in no apparent order. Together, they create a 100-line, crowd-sourced poem called “Love Letters for the Midway,” which attempts to bring a positive message to neighbors in difficult times.
The project “began as a dream, believe it or not,” said St. Paul artist Havana Sullivan Janzen.
Before the coronavirus pandemic took hold, she dreamed she was walking around the neighborhood and saw something like a skywriter in the clouds, writing messages above people’s houses about how great their neighbors were, or missing their puppy Was.
“It was all my brain’s way of processing the many conversations that happen online in the Hamline Midway Neighbors Group on Facebook,” she said. “But I never thought what the dream was until I couldn’t shake it because many days passed. I would be driving down the street and I would suddenly see a house that was in my dream and I was really curious Like, why is this dream sticking with me so much?
“Eventually I realized, ‘I think I must do something with this. I feel like I should tell the story of my neighborhood in some way,'” she said.
Sullivan Janzen reached out to Kate Mudge, then director of the Hamline Midway Coalition, and proposed the idea of poetry. It came to life three years later with a grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Sullivan Janzen said, “I just wanted this project to be a moment where someone walking down the street and facing this lesson, they can stop even on a really hard day and have a few moments of joy.” can experience.”
Sullivan Janzen started a Google Form where Midway residents could tell a story or write what they liked about their neighborhood. Then he turned his words into poetry.
“I was able to translate the love people were showing each other into lines of poetry,” she said.
Sullivan Janzen also commissioned artists to build six small free libraries for the neighborhood. Those libraries now hold small works of art from local artists and have been used for everything from canned food delivery to bike helmet giveaways during the pandemic.
“I’ve got confirmation that humanity still exists, even when you can’t be together,” said Sullivan Janzen.
The signs will be there till January 10th. Janzen hopes that by summer it will be possible to have a picnic with all the signs and neighbors in one place.
For more information and a map of where the signs can be found, visit the project website at Hamlinemidway.org/lovelettersforthemidway.