The Bridgeport Farmers Market has something very unique – our own resident poets. In case you didn’t know, you can bring a book or two, school supplies, or even a monetary donation and in return, you will receive a poem. Three local English teachers have teamed up and call themselves The Bards of Yellow Wood. One of the Bards, Daniel, comes to us this week with a very heartfelt post about what the market has meant to him, his students, and the community. Now…go, find some books and come get a poem on Sunday!
It is helpful to visit spaces that exude a sense of culture.
I have never bought the idea that humans have five senses. We are more complex than that. We can tell time by the temperature of a stone beneath our hand: A feat that goes beyond touch. We have a sense of presence. We have a sense of transition. We have a sense of interpretation.
If you ever want to engage every sense in your body visit a Farmers Market. In a market space people and the food that builds them is in every corner.
For the last three years my partners Brian Elliott, Rebecca Walters and I have been privileged enough to find a home at the Bridgeport Farmers Market under the moniker Bards of Yellow Wood. We set up a booth every Sunday and ask people to give us books. It is an act of love for the community and the preservation of literacy. Brian and I take the books back to our classrooms and let our students keep them. In exchange for the books we write poems (More on that later).
When we began this journey, we had an idea of getting a few books for our classrooms. We had no idea that so much of our identity as people and teachers would be wrapped into the act of writing poetry for books. It has given us a sense of belonging. Every Sunday we are challenged to share stories with strangers–internalize the small snippets they give us as writing prompts–and create a transition between our perceptions of the world and their stories. All of this is done while surrounded by a sensory overload of color and agricultural scents. Flowers, fruit, candles, leather, food and labor from the land all mingle in the hills of West Virginia. Music and children each sing a unique song in the corner parking lot the market has claimed as its own. The world is filled with exotic pageantry, but at the Bridgeport Farmers Market beauty is a simple truth: Food, art, and craftsmanship are what it means to be human. This reality is as close to human nature as I have ever gotten. I am grateful for the shared experience.
We write poems. It is a way to condense a lot of perspective into a small space. It also allows us to write a finished product for our patrons in the time it takes them to shop around the market. Poetry is a way to take complex ideas and express them figuratively. When we decided to start the Bards, we wanted to share our own literature with people. In some ways, the donations are secondary. It is always a fascinating exercise, getting to know someone with a poem. There is a certain amount of trust involved when you ask someone to write a poem for you. Especially if that poem is intended to memorialize a meaningful event in a person’s life. We have written poems about loss, love, joy, death, greed, anger, and fear. We have made people laugh and cry–sometimes in the same poem.
What stands out the most to Brian, Rebecca, and I are the people who give to us selflessly. I will remain convinced that kindness is easy to find if you happen to be around the Jerry Dove exit, just outside Clarksburg, West Virginia, on any given summer Sunday. The patrons of the market are the market’s best resource.
All of the Bards are high school teachers. We have many students who come from low income families. Part of the reason we collect books is so that students can get materials they wouldn’t be able to buy otherwise. Over the last two years quite a few patrons have taken it upon themselves to use our platform at the market to give our students opportunities that Brian, Rebecca, and I would not be able to provide with our personal incomes. Just this summer we have received hundreds of dollars in school supplies, (notebooks, composition books, pens, sticky notes, highlighters, etc…) hundreds of books, and a generous amount of monetary donations.
In three years we have collected nearly five-thousand books and distributed all but around nine-hundred of them to students, teachers, and administrators in the Clarksburg, Marion, and Monongalia County areas.
If any of our patrons are reading this, I want them to know that they have made a difference in the lives of the students who live in our communities. I have been able to put books into bookless homes because of the market and its culture. I have been able to give class sets of highlighters and composition books because of the market and its culture. I have been able to give low income students children’s books to use as gifts for their younger siblings. To be clear, I have been able to teach better because of the culture that exists at the Bridgeport Farmers’ Market.
If you want my advice, eating and reading local are epic ways to be a part of something bigger than yourself. So, come visit us at the Bridgeport Farmers’ Market. Come for a radish and some cucumbers. Stay for the music, poetry and coffee. Maybe you will fall in love with something new. Come get a poem–locally grown verse, guaranteed.