PORTLAND — Poems in a local police calendar that garnered national attention earlier this year will be the subject of a reading and discussion March 5.
Part of an Arts and Equity Initiative project aimed at humanizing the local police force, the Police Poetry and Photo Calendar features poems and photographs by local cops. The participating officers were paired with local poets and photographers to work on the project.
Those poets, including the state’s Poet Laureate, will also take part Thursday in a reading that will not only introduce the cops’ poems to the public but also feature a discussion period where officers will discuss their inspirations for the poems and police work.
The civilian poets gathered earlier this week to discuss the reading and to share thoughts on what they learned from their police partners. Not surprisingly, many of them shared some of the same feelings about and reactions to police officers that the project is aimed at quelling in the community at large.
Michael Macklin, who worked with Sgt. Dan Hayden, said that before the project, he often saw policemen and firefighters as, “The uniform walking by, not the person.”
“It made me take stock of how I look at people,” said Macklin, who added that even though the project is over, Hayden stops by Macklin’s workplace to say hello.
Betsy Sholl, Maine’s Poet Laureate, worked with Lt. Michael Sauschuck who became the unofficial spokesman for the police poets and photographers. Sholl went on a couple ride-alongs with Sauschuck and the two met several times to work on his poems.
“He’s so relaxed and articulate,” said Sholl. “I loved getting to know Mike as a person.”
The March 5 reading is in Rines Auditorium at the Portland Public Library. It begins at 4:30 p.m. with officers reading select poems. At 6 p.m., the officers and poets will participate in a community dialogue. The event is free to the public.
For more information about the reading and the calendar (which is $15), go to artsandequity.us.
Marty Pottenger is director of the Arts and Equity Initiative, which is a program in partnership with the city of Portland. She has been working with other communities that are interested in the police poetry and photography calendar project and said she will visit nine of those places, including the Los Angeles Police Department, where the city’s new police chief is from.
She said eventually she will work to set up programs in three communities later this year.
Kate Bucklin can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 106 or firstname.lastname@example.org