Poetry project gives community opportunity for self-expression & art creation

Grand Rapids’ Poet Laureate, Erika “Kyd Kane” Thompson, has launched the second creative project of her tenure, The Postcard Project: A Space to Speak. As an ambassador of poetry for the city, the poet laureate is responsible for creating three projects during a three-year term that engage the community in the reading and writing of poetry. 

“I started writing poetry as a kid. I love language [and] I have an extreme love for words and using words to express myself — to manifest my wildest dreams, to set intentions, to affirm,” says Kane. “I've seen the way that using self-expression has the ability to shift lives.” The self-taught multidisciplinary visual artist, poet and Grand Rapids native, applied to the program and was named the seventh poet laureate in February 2021, in the midst of COVID-19. 

“I've shifted my proposal a bit, shifted my ideas to engage the community with projects that can keep them safe, while still being able to explore and enjoy the art of poetry,” says Kane.

“Normally, my peers [and I] are so used to going to open mics, coffee shops, doing speaking engagements, but because we were in a pandemic, we kind of lost the ability to do that. I wanted to still be able to engage the community with this work. So, I had to kind of think outside the box about how I can engage them safely,” says Kane.

For her first project, Elevated Love Language, Kane worked with Downtown Grand Rapids Inc. and the Grand Rapids Public Library (GRPL) to engage the community through a series of billboards and screens throughout the city using poetic love language. 

Credit: Downtown Grand Rapids Inc's Twitter

With a desire to get more people writing and a need to engage people of all ages and demographics, she came up with her second project, which utilizes several branches of the GRPL. People are encouraged to pick up a postcard at any GRPL location, fill it out with poetry and art, and then return it to the library. For those needing creative inspiration, there are also prompts to get you started, such as to write an ekphrastic poem about a photograph or a letter poem to a fictional character or someone in history. At the end, the best postcards will be selected and put into a rotating exhibition that will visit each of the eight GRPL branches, in addition to being displayed digitally on Instagram. Kane will also host a closing celebration at the Main Library. 

Kane also shares her passion for poetry, creativity and community as a lead teacher at The Diatribe, a nonprofit empowering youth through art. “I understand how important it is for us, not just for young people, but for all people to have a space to express themselves, to get things out. I've seen how that's shifted and changed my life so much,” says Kane. “Being able to bring poetry and creative expression and writing, in general, to young people through this organization that I work with brings everything full circle for me as to why I do it and why it's been so imperative in my life.” 

Learn more about The Postcard Project: A Space to Speak here, including dates for the traveling exhibition and celebration. The Poet Laureate Program is funded by the Grand Rapids Public Library Foundation and Dyer-Ives Foundation Poetry Fund.