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By John Dowd 

Arts Council audience creates original poem


March 19, 2020

Every year the Sanders County Arts Council strives to bring creativity to the communities of the county for which it was named. One such event held each year features the humanities and each event they host brings in talent from across the state. On Feb. 15 they did something special. During an event held at the Elks in Thompson Falls, the arts council invited Montana poet laureate Melissa Kwasny to come out to read some of her poetry to get the community’s creative juices flowing. After she finished, she began asking the audience to participate in an unusual way. Together, some 50 participants collaborated on a poem about their county and the valley in which they live. It focused on the beauty of the area and nature.

Each participant first worked individually to create three to five lines, and then each table voted on the best three to five lines among them. “It was amazing how very little she did afterwards,” said Rudi Boukal, a member of the arts council. He explained that after the parts were created, they were given to Kwasny to put into a whole. Boukal continued, saying that the effort she put into melding the poem from the different parts added by the community were minimal, and that much of the poem as it stands was as the participants created it.

Boukal helps to organize talent brought in and is the performance event manager; he oversees auditions and participants, directly working with the council to help create the experience. Boukal talked about how they had been wanting to find a way to have the audience participate. Once they came up with doing a group poem, they asked their visiting talent to use some of her most sensory oriented poems to influence the creativity in the minds of the audience.

The poem will be available as a purchasable poster from the Sanders County Arts Council and will also be handed out in a brochure at art council events. Participant feedback after the event was 100% positive, according to Boukal. This was the second year the arts council has hosted such an event and was the first where the audience participated in such a way.

The arts council is now looking to find more ways to involve their participants. Next year the arts council is looking into poetry and storytelling and wants to involve the audience through “shape poetry.”


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