They're poets, and they know it

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Maya Stein and Amy Williamson sit in the Poetry Garden at Beloit College typing short poems for Beloiters using words from attendees. The two completed the last leg of their tandem bike ride from Boulder, Colo. Wednesday as part of their effort to bring Little Free Libraries to more communities.

Gratitude, freedom and trust were the words which poets Maya Stein and Amy Williamson used to describe their 1,400 mile tandem bicycle journey to Beloit from Boulder, Colo. They learned to be thankful for hospitality and how to be present.

“It’s freedom from attachment to the outcome,” Stein said.

The two poets had arrived at the end of a heartfelt and humbling journey on Wednesday afternoon as they stopped at the Beloit College Poetry Garden. It was the final destination in an emotional and sometimes bumpy ride to promote Little Free Libraries.

They rode the last leg of their journey from Beckman Mill to Beloit with the Stateline Spinners, a local bicycling group. Upon arrival they were greeted by family and friends and a musical performance of “A Bicycle Built for Two.”

The Even Start dancers treated them to a performance and Culver’s brought frozen custard. In a time of so many sad headlines around the world, Stein said she was blessed with beautiful scenery and hospitality. Many people took the poets in, with them only having to camp nine nights out of 30.

“It’s more than hospitality, a deep welcome,” Stein said.

During their trek the poets hosted improvisational poetry events, usually at Little Free Libraries. Using Kickstarter.com, they raised close to $30,000 in funds to build 25 Little Free Libraries in communities along their journey. They said the smallest town they passed through had only 81 people. Although residents could travel to a library, the poets said it was rewarding to bring them a Little Free Library right where they lived.

In a chat with the crowd on Wednesday, the two women said the journey taught them the importance of collaboration, having to bicycle in tandem. She said the collaboration on the bike was a bit of a metaphor for the process of setting up Little Free Libraries, who often take many hands to build and decorate.

Stein was in command of all the gears and set the pace in front on the bike while Williamson gave support in back, as the occasional squirrel darted in their path. Stefanie Renee of Beloit acted as not only their photographer, but their supporter and therapist.

The poets then pulled out their old-fashioned typewriters to write short poems for Beloiters. The said their interactive poetry, based on a word given by someone in the crowd, had both profound meaning for the recipient as well as themselves. Words such as “love and peace” seemed the hardest to get to, although “sassafras” and the endless “kitty cat” requests from kids became a bit arduous. As they began typing in Beloit they were writing poems about “Lacrosse” and “tennis.”

All poems written along their journey and accompanying photographs will be published in an upcoming book.

There are still funds available through the Colleen Burns Memorial Fund for those needing help getting Little Free Libraries built in their neighborhood. For more information people can call Jane Fossum at 608-362-4044.

For more information on Stein and Williamson people can visit http://food4thesoultrain.com.

Maya Stein and Amy Williamson rode into Beloit Wednesday, completing their 1,400-mile-ride to Beloit from Boulder, Colo. The two were in town writing poetry to promote Little Free Libraries.

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