Call for Poetry

Design by Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc.

Poetry Paths, a poetry and public art project in the City of Lancaster, in collaboration with the City of Lancaster Public Works Department, the Office of the Mayor and Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc., wishes to commission a poet with ties to Pennsylvania to write an original piece to be integrated into a new design for Penn Square’s northwest quadrant.

Poetry Paths in its entirety is a public visual and literary art project produced in collaboration by the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House at Franklin & Marshall College and the Mayor’s Office of Public Works and funded by the Lancaster County Community Foundation.  It will incorporate the written word into the Lancaster streetscape using public art including sculpture, pavement inserts, and blank urban canvases such as brick warehouse walls, stoops and storefronts.  Texts may include poems by eminent poets both living and deceased, contemporary poets from the region, and local schoolchildren, and may be in English and other languages as appropriate.  The completed pieces will be installed in neighborhoods from January 2011 through December 2011, at which time visitors to Lancaster as well as residents will be able to download a map and podcast and take physical and virtual tours of the Paths, following the trail of words and art throughout the City. More information about the project can be found at

Penn Square is the geographic center of Lancaster City and in addition could claim to be the City’s most symbolic and prominent public space. In 1874, the granite Soldiers and Sailors monument that still stands today on the northeast corner, was erected to pay tribute to those who fought in the Civil War. Fulton Bank’s offices are also located here. The southeast corner is flanked by the historic Watt & Shand department store built in 1898 and designed in the Beaux Arts tradition by C. Emlen Urban. It has recently been restored, and expanded into the Lancaster County Convention Center and Marriott Hotel. Citizens Bank sits on southwest corner.

The northwest corner of the Square, where the public art and poetry will be installed, is anchored by the Heritage Center of Lancaster County, a gateway for the thousands of visitors coming into the city each year. It contains the Heritage Center Museum and the Lancaster Quilt and Textile Museum. Built in the late 18th century, this Georgian structure has previously housed: county and city offices, the City Hall, a Masonic Lodge hall, a post office and a library. Adjacent to the Heritage Center lies the historic and well-loved Central Market, the oldest continuously operating farmer’s market in the country, and the Griest Building, Lancaster’s only skyscraper, also built by Urban in the Beaux Arts tradition.

The City of Lancaster, located in south-central Pennsylvania, was founded in the 1730’s and has been an important center of commerce since the Revolutionary War.  In 2001 a portion of Lancaster was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Today the city has a diverse population that includes residents of German (Pennsylvania Dutch) descent, members of various Mennonite faith communities, a significant Latin-American community, faculty and students of four local colleges and universities including Millersville University, Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, Lancaster General College of Nursing and Health Sciences, and Franklin & Marshall College. The region includes Elizabethtown College, Harrisburg Area Community College, and Penn State Harrisburg, and a significant population of retirees. Lancaster is a popular tourist destination and is proud to have an active and lively arts community.Finalists will be encouraged to look into the rich history of both the City and the County.

Set over a geometric paving pattern inspired by the adjoining Griest Building’s façade, a curvilinear granite paving band will meander through Penn Square’s northwest quadrant – a key portion of the Central Market District often referenced as ‘the Heritage Quadrant’.  This curvilinear form mimics the Conestoga River located at Lancaster City’s southern boundary and suggests confluence – a metaphorical reference to the nearby river and, more importantly, to the daily movement of many diverse Lancaster residents and visitors who pass through and/or converge upon this key public space. Within this granite paving band, poetry will be inscribed.


  • Poets must currently live in, have lived in, or can otherwise claim a connection with Pennsylvania.
  • Poets must have published at least one book or chapbook of poetry.

Three semi-finalists will receive $150 each.  An additional $1000 will be rewarded to the winning entry.


  • Each poet may submit one poem of up to 700 characters or less. It may or may not have been previously published.
  • The poem should be submitted in English, and if relevant, in other translations
  • Each entry should also include the following:
  • Your contact information
    • Confirmation of previous publication – list the titles of 1-5 of your published poems including date published and the name book.
    • A statement describing your connections to Pennsylvania, and if applicable, to Lancaster
  • Submission should be made electronically to: with the poem attached as a Word or PDF document
  • Poetry Paths reserves the right to disqualify any submission that does not meet the above guidelines.

Monday, November 1, 2010, midnight


  • Call disseminated                                                                                                                  Oct 1, 2010
  • Entries due                                                                                                                             Nov 1, 2010
  • Penn Square selection committee chooses 3 finalists                                            Early Nov 2010
  • Public process generates comment for selection committee to consider            Early Nov 2010
  • Selection committee selects winning poem and winner is announced                 Late Nov 2010
  • Construction documents will be completed, incorporating the text                                 Dec 2010
  • Installation begins                                                                                                      Early Spring 2011


  • Quality and excellence of writing
  • Enduring appeal of poem
  • Inventiveness, artistry, originality
  • Contribution of poem to the theme of confluence—understood metaphorically and/or literally
  • Appropriateness to the site and to the city of Lancaster
  • Appropriateness to an audience of all ages and ethnicities

The winning poet will be required to grant to Franklin & Marshall College and its assigns the exclusive, perpetual, world-wide, royalty-free, and assignable right and license to use the Poem under the terms of an agreement in the form required by the College.  The form of this agreement is available upon request.  If the copyright of the work does not belong to the poet, Poetry Paths will work with the poet and provide funds as needed when possible to gain required approvals.

If you have any questions about this project, please contact:

Tashya Leaman Dalen, Program Coordinator
Poetry Paths
Philadelphia Alumni Writers House
Franklin & Marshall College
Tel: 717-358-7167

Poetry Paths is made possible by a generous grant from the Lancaster County Community Foundation, by support from the City of Lancaster, and by in-kind contributions from the Philadelphia Alumni Writers House and Franklin & Marshall College. Design concept and drawings by Thomas Comitta Associates, Inc.

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