Above: High school students listen as a poet shares his verses, part of Adirondack Center for Writing’s Pop Up Poets program.
Nathalie Thill knows that words can be powerful. As executive director of the Adirondack Center for Writing (ACW), Thill strives to help people — from kindergarteners to published authors — harness that power.
Based in Saranac Lake, ACW promotes culture and writing for all ages. Its projects touch the lives of hundreds in the Adirondack region. “Opening the hearts and minds of young people to writing and reading is something ACW sees as one of its most important undertakings,” Thill says.
ACW is funded by charitable donations, grants and the membership of writers and readers in the region who recognize the importance of bringing culture into isolated communities.
One of ACW’s newest programs, Pop-Up Poets, which Thill describes as “spontaneous poetry performances in unexpected places,” got started last spring with a grant from the Evergreen Fund at Adirondack Foundation. The program delighted thousands of people in Saranac Lake, Old Forge, and Remsen.
The program brought famous poets and their art into the lives of people who wouldn’t normally experience it. For one week in June, poets Jon Sands, Samantha Thornhill, and Adam Faulkner appeared in local diners, parks, and even Stewart’s Shops, addressing unsuspecting audiences with their lyricism.
The most powerful pop-ups were in schools. Thill tells the story of a kindergarten classroom being interrupted by Jon Sands bellowing funny lines about his life, the children’s initial startled glances between teacher and poet, followed by their enthusiasm as they realized that this strange man was there to share wisdom with them in a brand-new way.
“There were high school classrooms where calculus classes were transformed into conversations evoked by the provocative and heart-wrenching words from Samantha Thornhill and Adam Faulkner,” Thill says. “The week went too quickly. We planted so many seeds, it felt so wrong to leave.”
Thill hopes to find funding that will make Pop-Up Poets an annual event, reaching even more communities.
To support programs like ACW's Pop-Up Poets, consider a gift to the Saranac Lake Public School Education Fund.