Dare to share for the Talking Chair

A preliminary sketch of the magic Talking Chair

A Robbins Library visitor sees a welcoming armchair in the Fiction Room. She sits and hears: “This is Cathie Desjardins, Arlington’s Poet Laureate, reading “Spring” by second grader, Sam Liu.” The pleasantly surprised visitor listens to a short poem. She stands, reconsiders, and sits again to hear a different poem by another Arlington resident.

This vision will come to life in April when the “Talking Chair,” an interactive digital experience, under development by Arlington resident Emily Calvin-Bottis with support from the Arlington Cultural Council, debuts in the Fiction Room for National Poetry Month. The interactive chair will feature poems by Arlingtonians of all ages, all you have to do is submit them to arlingtontalkingchair@gmail.com by March 1.

Intentional serendipity

“One of the things I love about the library,” says Calvin-Bottis, “is the serendipity of going in for one thing and coming out with all these other great finds I wasn’t even looking for. I thought the chair would be a fun and intentional way to use technology to surprise library patrons with something that they might not have been seeking.”

Calvin-Bottis, a digital and interactive experience designer, hopes the technology project can help “make poetry cool” for people who may not see themselves as poetry enthusiasts, foster appreciation for the work of local residents, and even potentially draw people to the library just to experience a novel interactive technology experience.

“I love designing technology experiences like this, that don’t involve screens,” says Calvin-Bottis.

A magic chair

Director of Libraries Andrea Nicolay was immediately enthusiastic when Calvin-Bottis proposed the idea. “Would the library be interested in hosting a magic chair that would, upon someone sitting in it, recite poetry by local authors?  A unique library experience that would be unlike anything anywhere? My answer, was ‘yes, yes we would!’” says Nicolay.

Nicolay sees the project as an innovative way to bring a local slant to the goals of National Poetry Month generating attention to poetry, encouraging poetry appreciation, and highlighting Arlington poets, a vibrant group of artists in Arlington.  “The Library is a hub for local poets,” explains Nicolay pointing to the Library’s Beehive Poets Group as just one example of the community of interest around poetry that thrives at the Library. “It was also a great fit because the Library has a history of interactive displays and artistic exhibits,” she explains.

Entries sought by March 1

Arlington’s Poet Laureate, Cathie Desjardins, will select the poems to be featured and was excited about participating in the project as a means of sharing her love of poetry and achieving one of her goals as Poet Laureate: promoting the idea that poetry is for everyone.  “I’d like to see submissions reflecting every walk of life in Arlington, from students to seniors, from first-time poets to published authors, from long-time residents to those who are newly arrived to Arlington or even to Massachusetts or the US,” says Desjardins.

Selection criteria

To be considered for inclusion in the exhibit, poems should:

  • Range in length from approximately 30 seconds to under 2 minutes when read aloud
  • Be family friendly and appropriate in a public setting in both theme and language
  • Be the original work of an Arlington resident
  • Help inspire an appreciation for poetry

To submit poems for consideration email arlingtontalkingchair@gmail.com by March 1, 2018. Submissions must include author’s name, mailing address, email address, poem title, and poem. For entries from students, include the poet’s age and grade level. All work must be original and produced independently or in a classroom setting by a sole author.

Residents whose poems are selected will be invited to participate in an opening event at the Library when the Talking Chair debuts in April.

For more information:

Emily Calvin-Bottis, ebottis4@gmail.com

Andrea Nicolay, anicolay@minlib.net

Cathie Desjardins, arlingtonpoetlaureate@gmail.com

This program is supported in part by a grant from the Arlington Cultural Council, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency.

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