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Olmsted Parks Poetry Project to explore poetics of public space

For the past 140 years, no single aspect of everyday existence in Buffalo has had a greater impact on the quality of life--to say nothing of the aesthetic and civic aspirations--of this community than the physical presence of landscape architects Frederick Law Olmsted and Calvert Vaux's design of the first and oldest coordinated system of public parks and parkways throughout an American city. 

Although Olmsted and Vaux came to be associated with many of the great American urban park designs of the 19th century, nowhere was their vision to construct "a city within a park" more completely realized than in Buffalo, prompting Olmsted to refer to the Gilded Age's version of our community as “the best planned city, as to its streets, public places, and grounds, in the United States, if not in the world.” 

This fall, in conjunction with Buffalo State College's "Year of the City" initiative, the E.H. Butler Library's Rooftop Poetry Club will present "The Olmsted Parks Poetry Project: Exploring the Poetic Nature of Public Spaces," a series of seven readings, talks, and workshops celebrating the legacy of Olmsted's vision for this community, and exploring the uses of poetry in extending the idea of public art in the common, public, and natural spaces of park grounds forward into the 21st century.  

The series begins this coming Friday, September 7th at 3 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. in Delaware Park's Rose Garden with a workshop featuring Lynda H. Schneekloth, professor emeritus at the UB School of Architecture and Planning and the author of five books including "Olmsted in Buffalo and Niagara" (2011), "Reconsidering Concrete Atlantis: Buffalo Grain Elevators" (editor, 2007), and "The Power Trail: History of Hydroelectricity at Niagara" (2006). 

The event is free and open to the general public, but space is limited.  As with all upcoming programs in the Olmsted Parks Poetry Project coordinated by Buffalo State College-based poet and writing teacher Irene Sipos and Rooftop Poetry Club founder Lisa Forrest--a poet and Senior Assistant Librarian at Butler Library--advance reservations are recommended.  RSVP to Lisa Forrest at 

Subsequent programs in the series include:

Friday, Sept. 28, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Bidwell Parkway's Colonial Circle (next to the statue of Daniel Davidson Bidwell astride a horse):  Talks by author Carey Anne Miller and poet Andrew Rippeon.  A native Buffalonian and member of the English Department at Buffalo Seminary, Miller is a member of the Richmond Avenue History Project and is currently working on a book on the history of Richmond Avenue.  Rippeon is a poet, critic, and literary scholar whose work explores the intersections between poetry and the technologies of sound.  He lives in Buffalo.

Friday, Oct. 5, 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Delaware Park Pedestrian Loop (attendees meet on the back steps of the Albright-Knox Art Gallery): Author talk and workshop featuring Jonathan Skinner, a poet, critic, and literary scholar best-known as the founder of the journal Ecopoetics.
A 2011-2012 Fellow with Cornell Society for the Humanities, his poetry collections include "Birds of Tifft" (BlazeVOX, 2011) and "Political Cactus Poems" (Palm Press, 2005).  His most recent essays on urban landscape and poetics have appeared in Qui Parle (19.2) and in the "Ecolanguage Reader" (Nightboat Books, 2011). Skinner also keeps a blog on the parks of Frederick Law Olmsted, called "Spoils of the Park".

Friday, Oct. 19, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Rumsey Woods (attendees meet at Delaware Park Rose Garden) : Talk by author, activist, Buffalo entrepreneur and historian Mark Goldman, whose books include "High Hopes: The Rise and Decline of Buffalo, New York" (SUNY Press, 1983), "City on the Lake: The Challenge of Change in Buffalo, New York" (Prometheus Books, 1990) and "City on the Edge: Buffalo, New York, 1900-present" (Prometheus, 2007).   Joining Goldman for the workshop portion of the program will be violinist Rachel Ostrander and horticulturalist and tree expert Wayne Perry.

Friday, Nov. 2, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at South Park (attendees meet at Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens).  Join Olmsted Parks Poetry Project coordinators Lisa Forrest and Irene Sipos   for a docent-lead tour of the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, a landmark proposed and designed by Frederick Law Olmsted in the 1870s , designed and constructed by Lord & Burnham, the leading glass-house architects and conservatory builders of their era, in 1897-1899,  and first directed by noted American botanist John F, Cowell .  Following the tour, Forrest and Sipos will lead attendees in a garden-inspired writing workshop.  $7 students, $8 general admission to the Botanical Gardens.

Friday, Nov. 9, 3 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center: Art, Architecture and Trees: An Inter-Connected Web," a special Olmsted-themed exhibit and talk by Mary Kozub and Marjorie Lord. Kozub is Docent Coordinator at the Burchfield-Penney Art Center.  Lord is a retired reference librarian formerly of Buffalo State College's E.H. Butler Library.

Friday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m. at Delaware Park's Parkside Lounge, 84 Parkside Ave. (entrance off Parkside near Rt. 198):  Special reading event featuring author Francis ("Frank") Kowsky, poetry by workshop participants and the general public about Buffalo and its parks, and a storytelling performance by Eve Everette. Kowsky is SUNY Distinguished Professor Emeritus who for many years, he taught the history of art and architecture at Buffalo State.   He has written extensively on nineteenth-century American architects and has a long standing interest in the early years of the American park movement and the role that Andrew Jackson Downing, Frederick Law Olmsted, and Calvert Vaux played in its history. He is the author of  "Country Park and City: The Life and Architecture of Calvert Vaux," a book the New York Times referred to as “a handsome effort to rescue from comparative oblivion the architect who shared—sometimes more than equally—with Frederick Law Olmsted in the design of Central Park and other New York amenities.”  Next year his book "The Best Planned City in the World: Olmsted, Vaux, and the Buffalo Park System"  will be published by The Library of American Landscape History and the University of Massachusetts Press.  Everette is an adjunct professor in the Theater Department at Buffalo State, and the assistant conference coordinator for the Anne Frank Project.  She graduated From Buffalo State College with two BA degrees with honors--Theater Arts and Art History--and went on to earn an MFA in classical and contemporary text for acting at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland in Glasgow, UK. 

For more information about the Olmsted Parks Poetry Project or other event sponsored by Buffalo State College's Rooftop Poetry Club, visit Rooftop Poetry Club events.

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