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Professor Ed Madden Paints Sidewalks with Rain Poems

City’s Poet Laureate continues for another term

As Poet Laureate of Columbia, Ed Madden has been incorporating poetry into everyday city life with poems on COMET buses, on poetry boards in “pop-up parks,” in poetry readings, and on the pages of Columbia’s Jasper arts magazine. Now he has gathered poems about the rain and other transient events from middle school, high school, and college students, stenciling them on Columbia sidewalks in special paint visible only when it rains. He cut the stencils for the poems by hand and painted them with help from Lee Snelgrove of One Columbia.

The poems can be seen on rainy sidewalks in downtown Columbia and at the USC shuttle stop near the corner of Pendleton and Pickens, at the shuttle stop behind Longstreet Theatre, and along the sidewalk at the west side of the health center.

Among the 11 poems:

Stepping on cracks
breaks backs, like the one
that's carried you over
humps, around corners,
past streets to rise up.
- Vera Gomez


[Postmodern Goodbye]
I had an idea to send you a long letter, lovebird,
and gradually the urge faded, as urges tend to.
- Peter Gloviczki (Coker College)


Rain falls
on silent streets,
reveals mysterious statements.
- Harsha Avula (middle school writer)


The clouds burst open one by one
They can't stand it anymore
The truth is too much to bear
- Jisoo Lee (middle school writer)

A special poem by English Professor Fred Dings appears on the south side of the honors dorm and in the McMaster courtyard:

[That Day]
All day the cold rain fell, its clear bloodless beads
shattering all around us as if legions of angels
were dropping their rosaries, abandoning prayer.

As Columbia Mayor Steve Benjamin praised Madden when he first received the city poetry laureate title:

“Dr. Madden is not only a world class talent and scholar but also a leader who, through his actions as well as his words, exemplifies the very best of who we are and who we hope to be. We’re honored to have him serve as our city’s first Poet Laureate and confident that he will exceed our highest expectations.”

On Dr. Madden’s reappointment as Poet Laureate, the mayor added,

“Ed’s service to Columbia…has set the bar high for our future in terms of cultural leadership. It has truly been a pleasure and treat for us to consume Ed’s work over the years, and we look forward to seeing what’s to come in his next term.”