METHUEN — Most of the time when going for a walk, clear skies are preferred.

Not anymore.

In Methuen, hikers are advised to hit the rail trail in a downpour. Or maybe a light rain. 

Whatever the form of precipitation, pedestrians are in for a treat, as right under their feet words will magically appear. 

Poetry, mostly by writers associated with the Grey Court Poets, has been written in invisible ink that only shows up when the pavement is wet.

"Rain, rain, rain right here; so all can see my words so clear; otherwise we disappear," reads one of the poems, written by Isabell VanMerlin.

Raining Poetry, as the program is called, is happening at several locations around the city, including the Methuen Rail Trail, Methuen High School, Tenney Grammar School and Timony Grammar School.

It was started last week and is supported in part by a grant from the Methuen Cultural Council, according to Matt Kraunelis, a Methuen resident and longtime poet spearheading the project.

"This is a new display for us," said Kraunelis, during a tour of the display on an overcast — but dry — Friday morning.

Fortunately, local resident and poetry aficionado Mimi Leger brought a watering can so the poems could be brought to life from otherwise drab-looking cement.

Standing by was Josh Ferry, a critical cog in the project as he is the one who makes the stencils in his home workshop, saving the group thousands of dollars.

"If Josh hadn't donated these stencils it would have prohibitively expensive," Leger said, noting that each stencil costs about $300 if done commercially.

Ferry said he uses a fine bit that carves the letters into a masonite sheet. The sheet is then placed flat on the sidewalk while someone else sprays something called Rainworks Spray, onto the stencils. Once the spray dries, it becomes invisible. But when it is wetted down, the words appear in sharp relief.

He said it takes about four hours to make the stencils, from start to finish.

"It's a lot more work than I thought it would be, but it's a great project," Ferry said.

The words remain visible on the pavement for two to four months, although Leger noted that the first one they did, way back in February, is still visible.

Meanwhile, a little further north along the trail, more poetry is popping up, although in a slightly different format.

On the granite blocks that make up the walls of the rail trail, poetry has been painted in visible ink and paint. About a dozen or more poems, in several different languages, can be seen on the walls, including one by Kraunelis himself.

At the base of the walls on either side of the trail are several large, flat boulders. On top of each one are groups of rocks of various sizes and shapes with words or letters painted on them.

This is what is called the "Word Garden," where people can arrange the rocks into phrases, sentences or poems.

Kraunelis and Leger noted that the garden was set up about a year ago and launched with a poetry reading attended by about 30 people.

"We've dedicated this whole area for poetry," Kraunelis said. "The great thing about public art is that it's free and it's available 24 hours a day. We want to put it all around the city."

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