Poems on a pole

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Roger Dunsmore staples a poem to a utility pole. Once a month, Dunsmore bikes around his neighborhood, posting poems to various utility poles.

COEUR d'ALENE - A Coeur d'Alene poet is sharing his love for the craft and creating connections in the community through public poetry postings around town.

Roger "Rudge" Dunsmore moved to Coeur d'Alene in 2013.

"I retired after 50 years of university teaching in Montana. My identity was all wrapped up in teaching," Dunsmore said. "I came here and really felt out of my element. I wasn't sure how to connect to the community."

It came to him about eight months after he and his wife moved to the Lake City.

That was when Dunsmore's pet cat went missing, and his wife suggested he place "missing cat" signs around their neighborhood.

Once Dunsmore noticed how many miscellaneous signs were posted on neighborhood poles, he was hit with the idea to use that same method for getting poetry out to the minds and hearts of people in the community.

It wouldn't be the first time Dunsmore posted poems in a public place.

"The way this whole thing came about was my wife and I were visiting family in Portland and noticed a post in a yard with poetry on it," Dunsmore said. "We then went home to Dillon (Montana) and started the same thing. I put up a post and a little bench in our yard, and there it began."

Before retiring to Coeur d'Alene, Dunsmore and his wife posted poetry in their Montana front yard for five years.

Dunsmore quickly realized he could reach a larger audience through public street postings of poetry than he had in front of his home.

Andy Howerton became an early member of Dunsmore's new audience in Coeur d'Alene.

"One day last winter I was walking to work (at Java on Sherman) and was having a really bad day. I saw a poem on a light pole and it totally made my day," Howerton said. "Then all summer and spring last year, early morning on my bike, I would stop to check them out."

Howerton said he posted some pictures of the posts on social media and discovered he and Dunsmore had connections in the yoga community. Soon the two were able to meet.

"I love people who think outside of the box," Howerton said. "I noticed now there are people doing their own stuff with poetry postings around town. There's a dream catcher and poems on a pole about a block away from where I first saw one of Dunsmore's posts."

Dunsmore said he is familiar with that pole, and recalled one of the early days when he first started putting poetry on poles in town.

"A woman came out of her house and said, 'My husband writes poetry too,'" Dunsmore said. "Three months later, there's a post of her husband's on that pole, and a Native American piece tied around the pole, so I stopped posting there so he could."

For Dunsmore that was a great moment; he was witnessing the effects he had hoped for. People were getting involved with poetry.

Dunsmore said he now has relationships with about 30 venues and businesses that post the poetry for their customers and employees.

Bistro on Spruce owner Chris Mueller hangs Dunsmore's posts for his employees to view.

"We post them because it expands our horizons. It gets us talking and thinking," Mueller said.

Dunsmore agrees that poetry does open the mind and soul.

"Poetry is a form of spiritual practice," Dunsmore said.

Dunsmore said he aims to keep the poetry open to a wide audience.

"I choose not to include anything that would be offensive morally, or too radical politically," Dunsmore said. "On the other hand, I don't want it to be too neutral that it becomes bland."

Dunsmore keeps the poetry posts diverse by rarely posting works by the same author on a pole. He always gives credit to the poet or source of the poem, and only one in nine of the posts he hangs are his own work.

For Dunsmore, it is not about fame or having his own work recognized.

"What it is about more than anything for me, is that poetry is our birthright. It's as old as song. It's all over the world," Dunsmore said.

He said poetry needs to be shared beyond formal education. It needs to be brought to life.

"I love the lake and sailing on our sailboat, but I think this poetry thing is the day of the month I look most forward to," Dunsmore said. "I was kind of casting about and the poetry posts have been my link to the community. It's my link to my identity now."

Roger Dunsmore staples a poem to a utility pole near the corner of Eighth Street and Spruce Avenue in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday. Dunsmore has been posting poems by various authors, including his own, once per month for nearly a year.

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