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

Pakistani Author Mohsin Hamid And His Roving 'Discontent'

Mohsin Hamid combines the personal and political in his new book, Discontent and Its Civilizations. NPR's Scott Simon talks with the Pakistani author about his new collection of essays.
NPR

When Food Is Too Good To Waste, College Kids Pick Up The Scraps

Millions of tons of food are wasted on college campuses around the country, and students are noticing. Some of them are now rescuing food to make tasty meals for the needy and compost for gardens.
NPR

Funding Homeland Security: Where Do We Go From Here?

President Obama late Friday signed a stopgap measure to keep the department running for another week, but the tussle over his executive action on immigration, linked to the funding, is not over yet.
NPR

A Neuroscientist Weighs In: Why Do We Disagree On The Color Of The Dress?

Robert Siegel speaks with Dr. Bevil Conway, a neuroscientist at Wellesley College, about the dress that has the whole Internet asking: What color is it?

Leave a Comment

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