signs of the times

March 19, 2017

Meanwhile, in San Antonio… Word Around Town is a public art project created by Jennifer Khoshbin. She has installed two illuminated signs in the yards of corner houses; the signs display a micropoem on each side. The initial set of poems (uncredited on the signs) comes from poets Naomi Shihab Nye and Jenny Browne, current poet laureate of San Antonio. Khoshbin anticipates that other poets will contribute works in the coming weeks.

Read about Word Around Town in The Rivard Report.
. . . . .
photo by Bonnie Arbittier

on the drawing board

November 10, 2016

Bjarke Ingels Group

The Danish architect Bjarke Ingels and his firm, BIG, were commissioned to design 2WTC, the last of four buildings to border the 9/11 Memorial Park in New York City. The structure is currently completed only to street level, but the drawings can be viewed online.

Of the many options for the building’s main entry, it’s interesting and heartening to see that the designers chose poetry to adorn the huge wall. In what looks (from the rendering) to be illuminated letters, there are three lines from the opening stanza and four lines from the eleventh verse of Walt Whitman’s “Salut au Monde” from Leaves of Grass.

big words

November 4, 2016

Maryland Purple Line

If you are a literary artist who is ready to think big, the Maryland Purple Line has an opportunity for you to consider. The Purple Line is a 16-mile light rail line that will extend from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County. Now in the final design phase, it is slated for 2022 completion, with 21 stations and 74,000 total daily riders projected by 2040. As part of the process,

“The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) Project Management Consultant (PMC) is seeking literary artists to create a story to be integrated into the design and infrastructure of the future Purple Line transit corridor in suburban Washington, D.C. This is a call to all types of writers who wish to be considered for this opportunity to create a story that captures the essence of the corridor and text that will be incorporated into the stations along the line to be discovered by the ridership. This call will be used to generate a pool of candidates who could be selected to compete for this commission in the future.”

They offer the following definition of literary artist:

The definition of “literary artist” is meant to be broadly inclusive of artists whose work involves written material and is of recognized excellence in style and expression. For the purposes of this call, “literary artist” can include a writer whose work includes fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, scripts, lyrics, journalism and others whose work meets the criteria below. “Literary artist” can also include artists whose work combines performance and literature (for example, monologue, storytelling, spoken word) to the extent that their material is original and can be documented in writing.

This is an ambitious undertaking, but if you are a literary artist and are prepared to think big (and fast — the entry deadline is December 1, 2016), see the complete details on CallforEntry.org.

blazing poetry

August 9, 2016

Robert Montgomery - I WANT

It has been a while since we mentioned the poet/artist Robert Montgomery. A text artist, Montgomery creates large-scale public poetry — billboards and installations with light and fire. His work is brief, accessible and, as the artist says, “very frank.” Visit Robert Montgomery’s website to see and read more and find updates on Facebook.

Crane - Far strum

The other day, on the occasion of Hart Crane’s birthday, we posted a quote by the poet. It bears mentioning that Cleveland, Ohio, can also be added to our rather extensive collection of poetry walks (see the list in the sidebar, at right), where Hart Crane is remembered with a large-scale sculpture by Gene Kangas.

The artist used words from Crane’s poem “The Bridge: The Tunnel” in his 1992 creation. You can read more about the sculpture and see lots of photos in a 2006 article by Norm Roulet and read more about Hart Crane’s life, tribulations and connections to Cleveland in a 2012 article by Anne Trubek in the Los Angeles Review of Books.

photo by Olivia Nwabali

The other day, we talked about poetry that appears in the rain. This post offers the opposite: poetry that vanishes in the rain.

Daniel Rowland is the Pavement Poet. He travels around England, busking poems — silently — in chalk, in public spaces. A self-described Druid and pagan, he is interested in the “impermanence of thought” and often writes poems on political and social issues. While he occasionally has to deal with the local constabulary and often observes the indifference of the passing public, he also inspires conversation and even finds others joining in.

Of course, Rowland isn’t the first to think of this. The Academy of American Poets encourged chalk poetry in a National Poetry Month post in 2004. Michigan State University Center for Poetry holds an annual Poetry Chalking. The Guerilla Haiku Movement conducts, and encourages others to host, haiku chalkings.

And, of course there is “The Poem of Chalk” by Philip Levine:

The Poem of Chalk
Philip Levine

On the way to lower Broadway
this morning I faced a tall man
speaking to a piece of chalk
held in his right hand. The left
was open, and it kept the beat,
for his speech had a rhythm,
was a chant or dance, perhaps
even a poem in French, for he
was from Senegal and spoke French
so slowly and precisely that I
could understand as though
hurled back fifty years to my
high school classroom. A slender man,
elegant in his manner, neatly dressed
in the remnants of two blue suits,
his tie fixed squarely, his white shirt
spotless though unironed. He knew
the whole history of chalk, not only
of this particular piece, but also
the chalk with which I wrote
my name the day they welcomed
me back to school after the death
of my father. He knew feldspar.
he knew calcium, oyster shells, he
knew what creatures had given
their spines to become the dust time
pressed into these perfect cones,
he knew the sadness of classrooms
in December when the light fails
early and the words on the blackboard
abandon their grammar and sense
and then even their shapes so that
each letter points in every direction
at once and means nothing at all.
At first I thought his short beard
was frosted with chalk; as we stood
face to face, no more than a foot
apart, I saw the hairs were white,
for though youthful in his gestures
he was, like me, an aging man, though
far nobler in appearance with his high
carved cheekbones, his broad shoulders,
and clear dark eyes. He had the bearing
of a king of lower Broadway, someone
out of the mind of Shakespeare or
Garcia Lorca, someone for whom loss
had sweetened into charity. We stood
for that one long minute, the two
of us sharing the final poem of chalk
while the great city raged around
us, and then the poem ended, as all
poems do, and his left hand dropped
to his side abruptly and he handed
me the piece of chalk. I bowed,
knowing how large a gift this was
and wrote my thanks on the air
where it might be heard forever
below the sea shell’s stiffening cry.

Hear Philip Levine read “The Poem of Chalk.”
. . . . .
photo by Olivia Nwabali
“The Poem of Chalk” from The Simple Truth (1994)

Larry on the Lawn

May 18, 2016

O, Miami

We recently mentioned Poems to the Sky, a project of O, Miami. Here’s another: Larry on the Lawn: Lyrical Signs for Political Times. (Text from O, Miami.)

A political election year means a storm of rectangular signs strewn across South Florida lawns, each one advocating for its candidate. To inject some poetry into this prosaic landscape, Yo ❤ 305 and O, Miami have combined to create, “Larry on the Lawn,” a series of original campaign lawn signs featuring excerpts from the work of deceased American poet Larry Levis. Levis, born in Fresno to a family of grape farmers, died of a heart attack in 1996 (age 49) as a relatively unknown American master. The series of lawn signs, generously hosted by business and home-owners in Miami-Dade County, introduces Levis’s beauty and genius to citizens who, expecting the familiar, encounter strange and somewhat detached messages with no simple agenda or demand. During this election season, as the American political system attempts to put us all into very specific boxes, “Larry on the Lawn” reminds us that we are all more complex than a series of penciled-in bubbles.

See more Larry on the Lawn photos on Facebook.

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