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Report for America is a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues and communities.

Come Visit 'The Poet Tree'

Karen Fullett-Christensen

We all know that money doesn’t grow on trees. But what about poems? Aurora’s poet laureate is giving that illusion to those who pass by her home.

Karen Fullett-Christensen has a "Poet Tree" in her yard.

She said she read an article in the Illinois State Poetry Societynewsletter that highlighted an Evanston woman with a Poet Tree.

“And I thought, 'Oh, I could do that.' And I went back and talked to the folks from the [Aurora] Public Art Commission and one of the staff members there reminded me about Shel Silverstein's poem under ‘The Poet Tree.’”

She said she and the staff member did more research about Silverstein’s concept.

“It turns out that his publisher, HarperCollins, has a whole website devoted to doing Poet Trees,” she said. “So, from there, it just took off.”

Fullett-Christensen said she worked with the art commission in efforts to come up with something for children. She says her main goal was to do something for them to enjoy, since some summer camps are canceled due to COVID-19.

She said lots of children walk by her home, which is near Aurora University.

Her engineer husband designed the tree so that it could withstand bad weather.

“And then because my husband also has a picture framing hobby, we took old matte board and we put two poems each in plastic sheet protectors, like you get at the office supply store,” she shared. “We put the matte board between the two sheets of paper to stabilize them. I put stickers on the poems because I thought that would be fun.”

Fullett-Christensen said she wanted the poems to hang low enough for small children to read. 

She said the tree is filled with 30 poems from Shel Silverstein’s book “Runny Babbit Returns.” A book she often reads to her granddaughter.

She said more people should have a Poet Tree.

“And also, you know, I hate to do a pun, but how cool if this branched out,” she said. “I mean, what if people just did these all over Illinois, right? Let's just do it. Let's do it.”

Fullett-Christensen isn’t inviting anyone to add to her tree but she said they can come by to see the tree and read the poems.

She also said people can send poems to her. She will post them on the Aurora Poet Laureate Facebook page.

“So that can be our virtual Poet Tree,” she said. “And maybe we'll even make a separate Facebook page for the Poet Tree.”

Fullett-Christensen said she wants people to get outside and enjoy some literature from a silly writer. She said we all need some silliness right now.

Yvonne Boose is a 2020 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project. It's a national service program that places talented journalists in local newsrooms like WNIJ. You can learn more about Report for America at wnij.org.  

Yvonne covers artistic, cultural, and spiritual expressions in the COVID-19 era. This could include how members of community cultural groups are finding creative and innovative ways to enrich their personal lives through these expressions individually and within the context of their larger communities. Boose is a recent graduate of the Illinois Media School and returns to journalism after a career in the corporate world.