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The Power of Poetry:Celebrating Our City

The Power of Poetry:
Celebrating Our City


One of the truest expressions of love and appreciation is through the impact of words. Whether spoken or written, words have the ability to bring to life our thoughts and actions in powerful ways; like the love for one’s city. For local community organization Realize Bradenton, words are what transformed a few positive sentiments about the city into a beautiful love poem about the place we call home.

As a part of the organization’s ongoing “Love this City” campaign, an eight-month celebration that provides engaging activities and opportunities to discover the magic of Bradenton, Realize Bradenton called for the community’s input on what people from all walks of life who work, play and live in the city appreciate and cherish about it. These became the words of inspiration that Bradenton poet Joanna Fox intertwined to create her ode to our community titled, “To Realize Bradenton.” Not only is she a 40-year resident of Bradenton, Fox is also Booker Middle School’s creative writing teacher with many writing awards and accolades, like the USF Lifetime Achievement Award and the Maya Angelou Teacher of Poetry award, under her belt.

Pictured Left to Right, Back Row: Johnette Isham (Realize Bradenton, Executive Director), Travis Ray, Councilwoman Marianne Barnebey, Susie Bowie (Manatee Community Foundation, Executive Director), Mayor Brown, Katerina Gerakios-Siren (Community Redevelopment Agency, Executive Director

“When you’re in love with somebody you want to be with them all day long – what is it in the morning that you love about them and in the evening and all throughout the day?” said Fox. “There’s something that Bradenton has for everybody all day long, and it’s just waiting for you to find it. When I was reading the lines people sent, I kept saying ‘yes, that’s it!’”

By combining her love for our community and her gift for the written word, she was able to transcribe the meaning of Bradenton into an intricate poem that encapsulates the inspiration and beauty of the city. With playful expressions, unique observations and quirky plays on words, the piece was not only written at
the behest of Realize Bradenton, but also encourages the discovery, appreciation and realization of Bradenton: the very aspiration of the organization and our community.

The heartfelt hymn was officially revealed with its first public reading this February at Realize Bradenton’s Love this City Valentine Celebration. Performed by Fox herself, as well as Bradenton resident and West Coast Black Theatre Troupe actor Travis Ray, and young Gloria Ferrer an 11-year-old who also calls Bradenton home, Mayor Brown kicked off the performance and special occasion. Ready to experience this charming poem for yourself?

To Realize Bradenton
By Joanna Fox

Lean in.
Listen to the whisper of the river.
Overhear the murmurings of the live oak trees
Dripping with mossy angel hair,
A canopy shading Main Street
That eavesdrops on the commerce of the
Public market arrayed in
Citrus yellows, ripe reds, and fresh greens.
Do you hear that sound of Bradenton?
It is the past that mingles with a promise of
The future, and you are a part of it.
History casts its long shadow
From the Manatee Mineral Springs that slaked the thirst
Of those running to be free,
To the Manatee River that witnesses our city awakening.

At dawn,
Friends walk at a pace to beat the sun.
Bikers ring their bells, not so much
In warning, but in anticipation
Of a hello or good morning
About to be voiced by
A friend whose name you don’t yet know.
Perhaps a dolphin will surface;
Its exhale breaking the stillness.
In the distance, a warning whistle to clear the tracks.
The Tropicana train is coming.

But not all are so inclined to rise early
To herald the start of a new Bradenton morning.
Others prefer to frame their day in the Village of the Arts
A colorful vibe on the canvas of life
Where artists live and work and welcome you to
the smells, the sounds, the sights
the sensory experience – a pastiche
of culture, creativity, and cuisine stitched
with the threads of time.
Time that has recorded
the crack of the bat every spring,
skateboarders catching a concrete wave,
the laughter of children drenched in the
fountains of the splash pad,
fishermen sharing the dock with pelicans and gulls
each hoping for dinner.

Yes, there are some raggedy edges,
A bit of the rough and tumble crowd,
Those quirky embellishments that add
Dimension, definition, and design.
Bradenton wouldn’t be Bradenton without them.
Its all part of the tried and true
next to the trying and new
A city is its people. They are its heart. Its rhythm.

Yes, time stands still for no one.
But we can slow down enough to
Capture every stroke of the sunset
Spilling over the western sky,
Manifesting the mosaic that is Bradenton –
Where friendly easy living welcomes all.
Where even if it’s not your hometown,
It’s the place you can call home.

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