sidewalk poetry

March 29, 2019

We’ve had plenty of posts on sidewalk poetry: stenciled, stamped, chalked, engraved on metal plaques, etc. In Mill Valley, California, they’ve come up with yet another way to get poetry onto the sidewalk: project it. Poetry Illuminated will be on view in the downtown area each night through the end of April 2019. Read the article in the Marin Independent Journal and stop to read the poems if you’re in the neighborhood.

. . . . .
photo: James Cacciatore/Marin Independent Journal

Advertisements

poetry you can walk on

September 18, 2018

It’s been a while since we mentioned poetry walks (we’re especially partial to the Sue C. Boynton Poetry Walk at the downtown Bellingham Public Library) so here’s another one for the list. A first-time competition in Lansing, Michigan, yielded 76 entries and eight winning poems, which were subsequently etched into Lansing city sidewalks.

Each community seems to have a slightly different approach to the challenge of getting the poems onto the sidewalk (see a list of poetry walk links in the right sidebar). Lansing used a high-tech, computer driven etching system. See another photo and more information in The State News, and visit Lansing Sidewalk Poetry Competition on Facebook.

poetry walk

July 20, 2018

Every poem is written one letter at a time, but in Utrecht, a UNESCO City of Literature in the Netherlands, the process is being taken more literally than usual. At the rate of one letter and one tile per week, The Letters of Utrecht (not to be confused with the Brisbane, Australia, music project of the same name) is revealing itself in a poem-without-end. In fact, according to Atlas Obscura, the city- and subscriber-supported project is “being written by a changing roster of Utrecht’s Guild of Poets (so far there have been seven), the words known only to the next writer’s imagination.”

For more, visit this audio tour of Utrecht, including a brief audio introduction to the Letters.

poetry underfoot

July 5, 2018

Spokane, Washington, has taken a slightly different approach to its sidewalk poetry project, I Am a Town. Instead of permanently impressing the words into the sidewalk, this temporary project, dreamed up by former Spokane poet laureate Laura Read, uses stencils and spray paint to add the poems to local sites. The 13 poems were chosen and excerpted from open submissions. See more about the project, a map of the sites, and the full text of the selected poems on the I Am A Town website.

. . . . .
poem by Fitz Fitzpatrick

poetry underfoot

July 3, 2017

Here’s another addition to the poetry walk file: Poetry Pathways in the Meadows in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Coordinated by artists Agnieszka Matejko and Jannie Edwards, with a lot of help from the local community, this summer marks the third in a four-part poetry installation.

Supported and encouraged by more than 50 poetry workshops, a local call for “original, unpublished, short (4 lines or less, untitled) uplifting poems” yielded more than 2000 submissions from poets of all ages and levels of experience. Sited near schools and playgrounds, the short poems are sandblasted into the sidewalk, with color added. The project was funded by donations and a Community Initiatives Program grant from Alberta Culture and Tourism.

. . . . .
photo

Rainku!

April 5, 2017

Vancouver, Washington, is hoping for rain this month. You may recall that we did a post about Rainworks a while back. Now, in celebration of National Poetry Month, 24 poems are stenciled on the sidewalks of downtown Vancouver. Bring your umbrella or bring your bucket of water. Read all about it in The Columbian and visit Rainku on Facebook.

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)

%d bloggers like this: