Wall Poems of Charlotte Appear
We’ve started putting poems on the outsides of buildings in Uptown Charlotte. (Uptown = downtown, its own story.)
There are a few reasons for The Wall Poems of Charlotte. Poetry is, among other things, a visual art form. There are a lot of bare walls here. But, in the main, this project exists because people deserve to encounter poetry.
“The necessity for poetry is one of the most fundamental traits of the human race…
Without poetry the soul and heart of man starves and dies.”
Poetry in Motion in New York City puts poems or excerpts on subway and bus posters. Violent crime rates rose through the 1980s and early 1990s, but they began to decline in 1992, the year Poetry in Motion hung its first posters, and continued to do so through 2008, when the project went on hiatus.
Coincidence? (Don’t bring up Giuliani; this is a beloved theory that defies argument.)
A poem has blood and guts; it can whisper and it can yell. But its limited and too-rarefied quarters hinder its ability to fully do what it can. People deserve access to poetry, which belongs to them. So why not paint poems onto buildings?
We finished the first one here in April.
It’s not a new idea. The Leiden Walls in Holland feature 101 poem murals in their original languages, and they’re gorgeous and mesmerizing and absolutely right. We may not make it to 101, but we’re working on our next four now, with the aim of creating a walking tour.
The Wall Poems of Charlotte are by North Carolina writers: folks who were born, lived, worked, or taught here. The Black Mountain College legacy includes the work of Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, and Ed Dorn and could cover blocks of any city; we claim Randall Jarrell, Carl Sandburg, and A.R. Ammons, the project’s first poet; and we have a long list of writers making important poems today.
What is new is that the designs are by graphic design students from Central Piedmont Community College, where I teach English. Student Jennifer Raudales created the first mural. Mural artist Scott Nurkin, a wizard, then painted it on the wall given to us by Kevin Devin of Dandelion Market. We were sponsored for the first mural by a law firm and a construction company who became passionate about the project (Johnston, Allison & Hord, PA, and Rodgers Builders, Inc.). The result is, happily, better than we ever imagined.
“Put to no new use, the art rots.”
I build assemblages around my poems. My partner and art director, Graham Carew, incorporates text into his paintings. The Wall Poems of Charlotte are a natural extension of our impulse toward new uses, and we hope they will help a bit to deliver poetry to the people—to whom, of course, it has always belonged.
Post by Amy Bagwell, director of the Wall Poems of Charlotte. Cover photo by Taryn Rubin; inside photo by James Bazan. Used with permission.
- Getting Poetry to the People – The Wall Poems of Charlotte - July 10, 2013
L. L. Barkat says
I love the idea of the wall poem walking tour. I would love to see similar kinds in Boston, New York, Chicago, San Francisco.
Maureen Doallas says
I love this idea! Charlotte does some awesome projects in the name of art.
Wouldn’t it be great if the outside walls of elementary schools featured works of children’s poets?
The words of my friend the poet John Siddique were featured in shops in Hebden, in England, after the village suffered terrible flooding. John’s poems proved to be a great inspiration.
D.C. has a poetry walking tour that also can be experienced virtually.
Will Willingham says
Such a great project. Makes me wish I still needed to travel to Charlotte for business. 🙂
Amy Bagwell says
Maureen, I would jump for joy to see such a thing on elementary schools. There’s kind of no limit to where lovers of poetry could show poems, and I love that your friend’s work in that public form really have served a salvific purpose.
I would love to see it all!!!
Imagine… Looking up and seeing that poem…. May happiness pursue you. What a feeling- might feel like that same surprise and childlike giddiness that I is felt when a flash mob starts dancing in Grand Central Station. I love this.
Mark Ettinger says
Maybe this is what I need to try next. I see this particular writing on the wall as more of an inspirational quote than juried poetry.
A long, hard to understand poem might have people walking into poles or open manholes or cars running into each other.
Myself, I’ve tried to convey the grip or lightning bolt effect in the brevity of my writing. Blogging has had little yield, my published book of short writings – ehhh…
Writing verses on my photography – we’ll see what happens with that. Next step – THE WALL.
Are there enough available walls to go around? How will I ever afford to have it
put up there? I guess I’ll have to start with an ad on a wall: ” If you’d like to see a poem on this wall- follow the arrow down to the box at street level and make a contribution’ Thanks .. You never know – it might work. Will someone please rescue me from my delusions of grandeur,via yet another comment on a comment.
Julie Hester says
Just discovered Tweetspeak last week. Now just today discovering wall poetry in my own city. Thanks to both for such inspiration! It’s a beautiful week for touring wall poetry here…..
L.L. Barkat says
Welcome to Tweetspeak, Julie. 🙂 Enjoy the wall poetry!