Chairs Not Just as Chairs, but as...Poetry?


There are a lot of things you may notice in the yard these days. John Harvard is now almost constantly attacked by tourists, different structures seem to be sprouting up all over the place, the grass has turned an almost unnatural shade of green, and the popular chairs are back—but with a new addition.

If you look closely, you will find excerpts of Emily Dickinson poems on the front of some of the lighter-colored chairs in the yard. So what's it all about?

The excerpts are part of an installation of work done by Expos Preceptor and Adams House tutor Zachary C. Sifuentes '97-'99 in response to the poetry of Emily Dickinson.

"It came about as part of the National Poetry Month, and it dovetailed right into the time period when the chairs would be coming back out into the yard," said Sifuentes. He added that Associate Provost of Arts and Culture Lori E. Gross, having heard about his exhibit in the Woodberry Poetry Room, approached him about doing a project to inaugurate National Poetry Month.

Why Dickinson? Sifuentes' work focuses on the behavior of lines in Dickinson's poetry. "Her lines are autonomous entities. Read the lines in any order that you want and it still creates a Dickinson poem," said Sifuentes. He said that when Gross asked him to do a project for National Poetry Month, he decided to print up lines from various poems and put them on the chairs, allowing them to be reconfigured every day.

"It's a nice way to take a practical matter and turn it into a work of art," said Sifuentes of his goal in undertaking the project. "My sense is to see how randomness can create its own sense of logic. You can randomly order lines together but still have a logical poem."

He later added, "the [Facilities Maintenance Operations] recreate new poems every day!" (The FMO groups together and chains up the chairs at night.)

So keep on enjoying the weather, don't stress over finals, and in the meantime, check out some of the poems in the yard. And if you want to see more of Sifuentes' work, check out his exhibit in the Lamont Library Poetry Room about artwork responding. Study break, anyone?

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