On Saturday afternoon, over a dozen participants marched nine bright blue chairs down Lafayette Street to Mary Jane Lee Park in Salem’s Point neighborhood. Salem residents and Salem State students read original poetry and classics, like “Digging” by Seamus Heaney, to fellow participants seated in a semi-circle of blue chairs.
The park bustled with children of all ages in the mild weather, and a handful of the younger ones stopped their playing and came to listen. Rowdy but engaged, the young observers unsuccessfully tried convincing one of their own to read or sing a song for the group; a little girl asked hopefully if poetry would be read daily in the park. Soon the poetry reading ended, but the children were excited to hear the chairs would stay for use in the park.
Participants named each chair and placed it where a place to sit was lacking. The park lacked flexible seating, and benches that had existed along Palmer Street have been removed to discourage park use. From observation and resident interviews, Salem Public Space Project found that flexible seating would support park activity. The action was met with enthusiasm by some; the children soon moved the chairs close to the basketball court to better watch the game underway.
On the following day, we returned to the park to find eight of the nine chairs perfectly aligned by the playground. One of the little girls that had watched the poetry reading of the day before told us that some of the older boys destroyed one of the chair and the younger children took the rest to the playground for safe keeping. While the reasons for destruction are undeniably complex, the saving of the chairs is simple and heroic.
(Participants: Michael Boroda, Deborah Buelow, Michael Choueiri, Josh Fiedler, Jenna Forristall, Gregory Glenn, Grace Healy, Michael Jaros, Pamela Joye, Michelle Laboy, Claudia Paraschiv, Via Perkins, Travis Stickney, Maryanne Truax, Leah Weinrich)
Event information :Salem Public Space Project, Share a Chair Procession and Poetry Reading, Event date: November 10, 2012 at 3:30pm at Mary Jane Lee Park, The Point, Salem