Poetry amid the commotion


Look! It’s a street sign
with a haiku underneath.
They are new, Tuesday.

Thus began a story, all in haiku verse, in the Nov. 29 edition of The New York Times’ City Room blog.
The story, by Michael M. Grynbaum, was about the installation of colorful traffic warning signs throughout the city’s five boroughs. All of them are accompanied by a haiku verse – three lines totaling 17 syllables.
Here’s an example, cautioning cyclists to beware of car doors opening in front of them in bike lanes:
Car stops near bike lane
Cyclist entering raffle
Unwanted door prize

The Times’ City Room blog described the result this way, in haiku, of course:
A sudden car door,
Cyclist’s story rewritten.
Fractured narrative

The signs, posted by the New York City Department of Transportation, were created by artist and poet John Morse. About 200 of the signs are being installed. They come in 12 designs – 10 in English and two in Spanish.
“Poetry has a lot of power,” Morse said in an interview this morning with Scott Simon of National Public Radio. “If you say to people: ‘Walk.’ ‘Don’t walk.’ Or, ‘Look both ways.’ If you can tweak it just a bit — and poetry does that — the device gives these simple words power.”
The signs are also visually appealing. My favorite shows the silhouette of a woman striding with her purse beneath a crescent moon. The haiku verse:
She walks in beauty
Like the night. Maybe that’s why
Drivers can’t see her.

“The bold colors and clever words take signs that would otherwise fade into the background into the forefront,” the NPR report said.
Added Morse: “There’s a lot of visual clutter … all around us. So the idea is to bring something to the streetscape that might catch someone’s eye.”

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1 Comment

Filed under Americana, Cool stuff, Urban cycling

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