ST. CHARLES – If you find yourself walking the streets of St. Charles this summer, you might happen to cross paths with a wooden display showcasing a poem or two. If this scenario sounds familiar, then you may have encountered The Fox Poetry Box, St. Charles's newest – and likely smallest – outdoor poetry venue.
The box can be found right in the front yard of its owner, Tricia Whitworth. The inspiration for it came to Whitworth one night while on a walk, when she spotted a little glowing box on the side of the street.
“I didn’t know what it was; it looked like a birdhouse,” said Whitworth, “I got close to it, and saw that it was like a Little Free Library, and it had little lights in it. And it was just the coolest thing.”
After renting a couple of books from the library herself, Whitworth was inspired to do something similar, but decided to do it her own way.
“I thought it was the coolest concept, but it’s more complicated. Most free libraries you sort of become a steward of it … you have to make sure you have the right kind of books and really take care of it,” said Whitworth.
Doing a bit of research, Whitworth learned about the poetry box movement, which originated in Oregon in the 1980s.
“There was a guy named David Cooke, and he was a poet and he started a company and he actually builds these things, and that’s where I ordered mine from," Whitworth said.
Poetry boxes can be found all over the country, and while each box shares the same concept, they are often unique to their individual owners.
“Some poetry boxes [let] people go in and they can take the poems out and put in their own, but mine is such that I put up a display – it’s kind of like a little literary billboard,” said Whitworth. “[They] can see my display, and then I can change it out once a week [or] twice a week”
So far the reception to the box has been very positive from the community.
“I’ve gotten notes that have been put in there saying, “Thanks, this is cool." Sometimes people will put in suggestions, like somebody put in John Lennon’s “In my Life,” so I created a display of that,” Whitworth said.
After the box began to cultivate a small following in both the community and on social media, Whitworth began to enhance it with the help of some collaborators.
“I’m always thinking, 'What can I do with this thing? What creative thing can I do?'" said Whitworth.
Some of her collaborations include working with local businesses such as the Funky Rooster Tattoo and Art Gallery in Elgin, to commissioning a poem from a British poet and a new logo from a Canadian artist.
“I think the whole project has taken off, and it’s really just a source of creativity, and just getting words out there,” said Whitworth.
For more information about the Fox Poetry Box, follow it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FoxPoetryBox.