SURFSIDE — Tony Pfannenstiel wants to brighten lives on the Long Beach Peninsula with poetry.
And he has a simple way to make it readily available.
Poetry boxes have been a feature around Portland since 2010, and elsewhere in the United States much earlier.
He and Steve Kovach of Klipsan are working to bring the idea to the Peninsula — while gauging interest and recruiting help.
“We believe that poetry does have a healing effect,” Pfannenstiel said. “Words that are well crafted can mean something. Even the most abrasive person can be affected by a poem.”
People walking around the community may be uplifted, or simply learn a tidbit of Northwest history from a poem in a box, he said.
He is recruiting poets on the Peninsula to provide material while seeking businesses and other locations whose owners are happy to provide a home for the boxes.
Printed poems would be fixed inside sturdy, wooden free-standing structures and read through a glass window — with no risk of litter or paper copies being removed. The frequency the poem in each box is updated could vary according to the season.
Pfannenstiel, from Portland, is retired from the insurance industry. He has had a home in Surfside since 1993 and plans to become a permanent resident.
He has been writing poetry since his youth. He edited and published an anthology of 75 poets called “Fault Lines” in 2012, and spent four years as volunteer poetry curator at the Multnomah County Library in Portland. He has helped organize poetry programs at area libraries and most recently at the Peninsula Arts Center.
The boxes appeal to his desire to get more people interested in the art form.
“My friends in Mexico have put them up in their Guadalajara neighborhood, as has the Gig Harbor library. Even the wine town of Napa has one at its library,” Pfannenstiel said. “Portland has quite a few, with group walking tours going from post to post throughout the city.”
The Peninsula effort will begin in Ocean Park and likely spread south. He hopes seasonal themes, like Valentine’s Day, winter holidays or storms, will inspire poets to create and distribute new work. “For the Kite Festival, our theme would be air and wind and freedom and flight,” he added.
Cost of the boxes would be in the $150 to $200 range. Pfannenstiel is asking people who are interested in providing a location to contact him. He is also looking for people to build the boxes.
Kovach is working on building the first two. When he retired from a marketing career last year, he moved from Federal Way to Klipsan, where he has had a house for 20 years.
The two men met at a poetry event this spring and ideas were generated.
“Our dream is to have locations around the Peninsula, like art walks or studio tours,” Kovach said. “I enjoy writing — I am fascinated by the written word. Period. I like creative prose and poetry.”
Future efforts may include a poetry festival on the northern Peninsula in 2020 called “Word Storm” for which Kovach has already designed a logo.
Pfannenstiel looks at way the annual FisherPoets Gathering brings visitors and money into Astoria each February and believes something similar could be created here.
“Regardless of the economic advantages that could accrue to our Peninsula, poetry itself is a humanizing and civilizing influence,” he said.
“We want the Long Beach Peninsula to become known as the poetry epicenter of the Northwest. Wouldn’t that be awesome?”