Yay! New York City!
I wrote the above when I read about a new traffic safety campaign launched this week by the NYC Transportation Department. About 200 eye-catching, 8″ x 8″ signs, some with accompanying haiku in English and Spanish, will be posted at congested crosswalks in all five boroughs, from the Bronx to Staten Island.
Cool, I thought. Another way to share literature in public. As a frequent subway rider, I remember when the city adopted the Poetry in Motion program, hanging placards of poems, enriching the straphangers’ rides. Begun in 1992, the poems provided a pleasant distraction until 2008, when the city replaced them with public service announcements, such as “See Something, Say Something,” and paid advertisements.
Then I took myself on an urban scavenger hunt to see these curbside haiku safety warnings. I downloaded the map and found nine in the Columbus Circle vicinity. (West 57th-58th Street).
Later, I wrote this haiku:
Small signs hard to find
Only a few with haikus
QR codes on most
But I doubt they’ll do anything to lessen traffic accidents. How many pedestrians want to stand in a busy intersection and use their smart phones to scan a poem? How many cyclists and drivers can read while in transit? Won’t that cause more crashes?
New York City, bring back Poetry in Motion. The only hazard there might be people missing their stops because they’re so engrossed in reading. And they don’t need a smart phone to enjoy the poems.
Here’s my final haiku:
Boo New York City
Taking public poetry
Off subways, miss it
My first haiku was published in the New York Times comments blog.
Here are my other posts on public art: