By Robert Kimmel
Walking along Riverside Drive in Sleepy Hollow’s Philipse Manor neighborhood this spring could be a literary experience for you. Glancing at the pavement, your eyes will catch some unusual engravings in the cement. You’ll be looking at an array of brief poems written by the local winners of the “Poetry in the Pavement” program, sponsored by the Village and the Hudson Valley Writers Center, (HVWC). Works of famous poets will be spread among them.
The program and completed poetry contest are part of a plan to “rebuild and enhance” the sidewalk along Riverside Drive. Mayor Ken Wray and the HVWC last month announced the seven poetry contest winners, each of whom was awarded $50. Entries from persons living in Sleepy Hollow and other villages were limited to eight lines and they had to have some reference to the Hudson River or the natural environment. The poetry submissions were judged by a panel of “published poets.”
When the new sidewalk is installed this spring, the winning poems will be imbedded in it, according to HVWC. Among the winners is a Sleepy Hollow High School student, Leah Scarpati, who was featured at the HVWC’s “Open Mic” Friday, February 16, where she read her poem. It was followed by encouragement from the large audience who called out for her to come back. Ms. Scarpati’s poem reads:
River green and blue,
you sing sweet serenities
to my summer air.
The six additional winners were Lisa Olsson of Dobbs Ferry, Iain Halley Pollock of Ossining, Faryn Sand of Ossining, Margo Taft Stever of Sleepy Hollow, Kathleen Williamson of Pleasantville, and Lee Sennish of Valley Cottage. “We will be hosting a full reading/celebration with our winners in the coming months, date to be announced,” said Krista Madsen, Managing Director of HVWC . Sennish, who was a poetry student at the Center into her 90s, passed away earlier this year.
Sennish’s entry, from “Sleepless in January”:
Let me purely love the world.
the cricket, the clouds in their mighty fields,
their shadows, lady bugs, the shell
that broadcasts the sea, the glass pig.
Let me love this life that shakes
me like a passing train.
Let me forgive. You
and you. Myself.
HVWC also named a group of “finalists,” who included Leah Scarpati’s ‘s mother, Rebecca Scarpati; Inessa Bliznetsova, Joseph Fasano, Scott Kaplan, Lynn McGee, Maxine Nodel, Lynn Schmeidler, and three additional students, Quinn Muller, Oscar Pak, and C.J. Scarglato.
The HVWC also decided to intersperse among the local winners’ poems on the sidewalk some verses that related to river and nature themes from famous poets, such as Emily Dickenson, Walt Whitman, Langston Hughes and Pablo Neruda. Madsen noted that while poems in Spanish were eligible entries, not any were received, so Neruda’s poem will be engraved in Spanish on the pavement.
Additional Winning Poems
“NEVER DO I NOT WANT MORE”
Have I but safe harbored
a dory, fed a child, turned
a turtle toward the woods,
stirred song, touched
the wind—it is enough.
—By Lisa Olsson, Dobbs Ferry
the dark sky tries
to utter its own name
in Spanish but speaks
only one tongue, these
stars, these words
of fire, no language
or birth, but blazing
denizens of light.
—by Faryn Sand, Ossining
“CHRISTMAS EVE, CROTON POINT”
At the landfill before nightfall,
find a stretch of grass and a sky
darkened with starlings that plunge
into treetops clinging to the last
light of day. Watch the crescent
moon drop behind Hook Mountain
beyond the river that runs both ways.
–By Kathleen Williamson, Pleasantville
From “The Hudson Line”
This is a train of thieves, all of us
who never cared for our jobs or our mothers,
who looked out on the Hudson
and saw only water.
—Margo Taft Stever, Sleepy Hollow
From “A Lament, from Greener Territories”
. . .a single apple tree, branches beginning to sag
with ripening, did not shake in the humidity.
I am telling this to you, but it will not translate
to the grit and brick of your syllables. You are there.
I am here: summer, boxwoods,
—Iain Haley Pollock, Ossining