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Pulling Paper Towel Poetry

Some believe the simple text of poetry has a fading presence in a world of flashy television and colorful magazines.

For that reason, Michele Corriel created the Paper Towel Poetry dispenser.

Standing 5 feet tall on a leg of its own, a simple paper towel dispenser awaits to dab a taker with poetry after lured by the words, “Poetry Dispenser. Please Take One.”

“People really like having poetry around,” Corriel said. “And it’s also a great outlet for the poets to give their voice to the community.”

One of the 5 dispensers has a permanent home in the Emerson Center for the Arts & Culture in Bozeman where she fills it once a week with 500 new poems from anyone willing to submit.

It’s a form of public art that is interactive and always changing.

The 8th graders of Headwaters Academy submitted a mass of poetry as a class project and Manhattan High School students get extra credit for submitting their work.

“You never make any money with poetry anyways, so why not just give it away, ” said Corriel. “Poetry is near poverty in the dictionary.”

Sightings of the poetry dispensers include: Montana Festival of the Book, HATCHFest and on the streets of Helena, with hopes of finding permanent homes for all five dispensers someday.

“It’s already taking on a life of its own,” said Corriel.

To submit or to contact the public poetry guru by emailing

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  1. Albert Gieser of Virginia, Born Murray Hospital, B

    You know, covered by the concept pf poetry there are 36 stanza patterns, 26 set length poem types, 12 indefinite length types and 8 nonspecific format elements. Blank verse is just one of these. But I venture that 80 percent of the poetry written today is of this type. While blank verse, if its good and flows smoothly, is a delight to the ear and the mind’s eye, I still like a meter and a rhyme in my poetry.
    Here is a snippet of a poem written in Spanish in Mexico by Sor Juana Inez de la Cruz around 1680 and translated by Alan S. Trueblood around 1980:

    Rose, celestial flower finely bred,
    you offer in your scented subtlety
    crimson instruction in everything that’s fair,
    snow-white sermons to all beauty.
    Semblance of our human shapeliness,
    portent of proud breeding’s doom,
    in whose being Nature chose to link
    a joyous cradle and a joyless tomb.
    How haughtily you broadcast in your prime
    your scorn of all suggestion you must die!
    Yet how soon as you wilt and waste away,
    your withering brings mortality’s reply.
    Wherefore with thoughtless life and thoughtful death,
    in dying you speak true, in life you lie.*

    Sor (Sister) Juana Ines de la Cruz Alan S. Trueblood
    1651 – 1695
    * From “A Sor Juana Anthology” by Alan S. Trueblood, Harvard Press, 1988

    Now there go a couple of fine poets that not many people know about!

  2. Woops! Name line should have read Albert Gieser of Virginia, born Murray Hospital, Butte, Aug 10, 1927. I”m not THAT old!

  3. You mean free verse. Blank verse does have a meter, namely, iambic pentameter. It’s w/o a rhyme, though. That’s where the “blank” comes in.

    Nice poem!

  4. bozemangelas needs way more public art. the poem dispenser is fantabulous. bozeman needs more public visual and performance art. thank goodness for sweet pea, music on main, and shakespear in the parks. has anyone ever daydreamt about cutting off traffic on main st. for a couple of blocks (rouse to something… wilson or further) after evening hours for public bazaar? maybe even permanently? the new parking garage would make that slightly more feasable… think about it next time next time you drive through… i wonder what the business owners think… i would bet they think i’m an idiot.

  5. i spelled shakespeare wrong above, i think… sorry…

  6. For Peter Danbury – thanks for the reminder. Over time the difference between “free verse” and “blank verse” dimmed in my mind. But da dum X 5 requires a measure of creative discipline also.

    For bozemaneer – I’m with you, we all could use more art but sometimes we fail to recognize it when we see it. I am reminded of a neat quote I read some years ago: “What we so self-consciously call “modern art,” after all, is nothing more nor less than the art of this time, our time, our art; there is no other today. If we could have a different art, or a better , we would have it. As it is, we are lucky in this period to have any art at all. ” (William Barrett – Irrational Man (1958)) . I think the observation is timeless.