The quaint university town of Leiden, Netherlands is home to over 100 wall poems. Walk throughout the town center and you will see poems lovingly hand painted on the public walls for everyone to enjoy. The first poem, written by Marina Tsvetaeva made its mark on a wall in 1992. Each work of poetry was written in the poet’s native language. You can find poems by Rainer Maria Rilke, Du Fu, Louis Oliver, Langston Hughes, Pablo Neruda, Sapho, Dylan Thomas, Derek Walcott, e.e. cummings, Basho, William Butler Yeats, Rimbaud, and Shakespeare, among others.
Inspired by the idea of bringing poetry to her own city’s walls and public spaces, Amy Bagwell started a similar project with a friend back in 2013 called, The Wall Poems of Charlotte. When asked about her motivation, she states, “the Wall Poems are one way to get poetry to people, to whom it belongs.” Showcasing poets from North Carolina including Charles Wright, Randall Jarrell, and Carl Sandburg; the Wall Poems feature many young writers as well, such as A. Van Jordan, and Sandra Beasley.
Amy shares her desire to make poetry accessible to everyone, to let it touch hearts and minds around her city, rather than leave poetry amidst the dusty stacks of a library.
In the right poem at the right moment, we can each find our context, a distillation of our times, a slash at a common Grendel, a zing of truth and beauty in language so original that for a minute or two we stop aging.” —Amy Bagwell
Try it: Wall Poems
Think of the public spaces in your town, amidst the buildings and shops. Choose a wall. On that wall you will lovingly write a poem to share with the people of your town, visitors, and the world. What message will you send? What do you want to tell others about the value of poetry in our lives? Write your poem and then share it on our wall, in the comments section. We’ll be reading.
Here is a recent poem from Monica we enjoyed. Within rich family stories and legends, the walls certainly can talk:
Descended from Both Sides of the Delaware Crossing
With George Washington one man arrived
‘cross the river. The Hessians: surprised.
One Hessian (who knew?)
was an ancestor too,
their descendants glad both men survived.
—by Monica Sharman
Photo by Tim Vrtiska, Creative Commons via Flickr.
How to Write a Poem uses images like the buzz, the switch, the wave—from the Billy Collins poem “Introduction to Poetry”—to guide writers into new ways of writing poems. Excellent teaching tool. Anthology and prompts included.
“How to Write a Poem is a classroom must-have.”
—Callie Feyen, English Teacher, Maryland