Haiku Traffic Signs Bring Poetry To NYC Streets | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Haiku Traffic Signs Bring Poetry To NYC Streets

If you're walking or biking around New York City this weekend you might look up at a busy intersection and see signs like these:

Traffic warning street signs written as haiku are appearing on poles around the five boroughs, posted by the New York City Department of Transportation. The poems and accompanying artwork were created by artist John Morse. There are 12 designs in all, 10 in English and two in Spanish.

"Poetry has a lot of power," Morse tells NPR's Scott Simon. "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."

Take, for example, these signs that urge pedestrians, drivers and bikers to walk, drive and ride responsibly:

Accidents aren't funny, but Morse's artful treatment gets a serious message across in a powerful way. "It's fun because it's dreadfully serious — the subject," Morse says. "And yet, you don't have to bang people over the head."

The bold colors and clever words take signs that would otherwise fade into the background into the forefront.

"There's a lot of visual clutter ... all around us," Morse says. "So the idea is to bring something to the streetscape that might catch someone's eye."

Morse says one delightful and unexpected consequence of the project is that it has brought some haiku poets out of the woodwork. "One of the joys of doing this sort of thing is how many people have responded to it with their own haiku," Morse says. "There's just a plethora of haiku coming out. It's so exciting."

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

'Guardians' Director: This Movie Needed Me!

Morning Edition's David Greene talks to director James Gunn about his new film, Guardians of the Galaxy, which Marvel hopes to make its next big franchise. Characters include a raccoon and a tree.
NPR

Syracuse Researchers Melt Rock, Grill A Steak Over Magma

Researchers at the university built a furnace that can melt rock, then had a cookout. Chefs placed a ribeye on a grill over the 2,100-degree magma. Seconds later, a very charred, medium rare steak.
NPR

Assessing Obama's Foreign Policy After A Week Of Crises

Politico Magazine editor Susan Glasser and Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum talk with Linda Wertheimer about how the president's foreign policy moves are playing out at home and abroad.
NPR

Big Data Firm Says It Can Link Snowden Data to Changed Terrorist Behavior

For months, U.S. officials have said secret data from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden was affecting the way terrorists communicate. A Massachusetts company says it has found proof.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.