We’re smack dab in the middle of National Poetry Month… in the United Kingdom. October is also the month I’m still proposing there be either a second National Poetry Month in the US (because one month isn’t enough), or we co-opt Great Britain’s month and convert it to International Poetry Month (if you can’t beat them, join them; if you can’t join them, co-opt them).
As part of the future International Poetry Month I went looking this week for poetry sites that were more, er, international in flavor. One that I found that was interesting was the GPS, Global Poetry System. A project from London’s Southbank Centre, a complex of artist venues, the GPS allows people to upload photos, videos, and text of the things that inspire them poetically and mark them on a map with Global Positioning Satellite coordinates. Much of what’s here are found poems – oddly translated or worded signage, although some are reflections and memories and meditations on poems themselves. Find it. Map it. Share it. That’s the motto.
You can then browse poems by looking at a map. While the bulk of what’s been added has been from England and Northern France, there’s poetry uploaded and scattered all over the world. Curiosity took me to a small island to the east of Madagascar where some clever poet decided to post a pair of their own poems, clearly understanding there would be people like me to explore the outer reaches of the map. I’m not saying the poet wasn’t from the island but it did raise the question of what is home for a poem. Could a poem have a home different from the home of its creator?
Speaking of different homes, in poking around the GPS I came across a poem from my old stomping grounds in the SF Bay Area. It’s an odd poem, I think I like the execution more than the actual poem itself – written on tape applied to a sidewalk. I have to admit, it was hard to resist a post called “Sexy Pigeons.” The poem was part of a collection put up by a “guest curator” David Ogunmuyiwa on the site’s blog that collected some fine found urban poems.
Randomly checking out some poems found in Manhattan I came across a pair of visual poems that may or may not have been deliberately staged but were no less fun. One of the two was part of a project where a disposable camera was sent out into the world and passed along from person to person after each shot. I tried this once myself and never saw the final results (the camera never came home) so it was nice to see it work for someone else.
Finally, just for kicks, I clicked on a post about funny poems in the GPS archives and saw that someone, somewhere else in the world, had posted a version of my “aint wet” header picture. I never imagined that when I came across it that it was the first time someone had “appropriated” a “wet paint” sign in public bit it got me to thinking that there is a universality to this idea of public poetry, of found poetry in unexpected places, and our desire to record it when we find it.
Just last night, as I walked into the halls of my daughter’s high school for Back-to-School night I couldn’t resist taking a hurried picture (thus the blur) of a bit of high school humor. This sign, next to a handrail seemingly placed at random on the wall, is exactly like something I would have done, and pokes fun at the sort of public language we surround ourselves with but rarely question unless pulled out of context.
Think globally, act locally. It may (eventually) be International Poetry Month, but right now it’s Poetry Friday. Liz over at Liz in Ink is hosting the roundup this week.