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Bob Holman & Margery Snyder

Haikus for Street Safety

By December 5, 2011

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The New York City Department of Transportation has a new safety campaign, putting poetry on the streets in 216 Curbside Haiku—brightly colored stick-figure designs, some accompanied by a printed haiku, and others containing a QT code which will feed the haiku to smart phones. The intent is to teach pedestrians and bike riders to pay attention, to make them think about their own vulnerability on a street filled with cars. Here are a few of the haiku we like best from the series:

She walks in beauty
Like the night. Maybe that’s why
Drivers can’t see her.
Oncoming cars rush
Each a 3-ton bullet.
And you, flesh and bone
Imagine a world
Where your every move matters.
Welcome to that world.
The designs and the poems are by poet/artist John Morse (who also put Roadside Haiku “bandit signs” all over Atlanta in 2010). New York Times readers have responded with witty haiku of their own: “Submitted Syllabification: Readers Respond to Traffic Signs.” And New Yorkers interviewed in the local media are divided in their responses: some think this is putting public poetry to good use, others see the signs as another distraction creating the potential for traffic accidents. What do you think, dear readers?

More about Haiku:
Haiku defined, in our Glossary of Poetic Forms
Haiku, Senryu, Tanka links

Previous Notes on Poetry in Public Places:
Poetry in Advertising (August 2009)
Public Poetry Installations in St. Paul and San Francisco (November 2008)
Poetry Made Public and Permanant (June 2008)
Poetry Everywhere Videos (April 2008)

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