Oakland City Repair continues its territorial expansion at the intersection of 32nd & MLK! Our latest project turns from images to words. When you're taking a stroll down the street, you should take the time to smell the roses... and read the poetry!|
In a residential neighbourhood in southeast Portland, there is a cob bench with a built-in mailbox, and passersby are encouraged to sit down, and pick a poem out of the mailbox... or write one down and put it back in! Down here at Ghost Town One Headquarters in West Oakland, we may not have a nice big lawn that we can build on top of, but our sidewalks our lined with trees that we can hang cool stuff from!
For this project, we took some of our favourite songs by some of our favourite rappers, and laid out the lyrics against the backdrop of images of the respective artists. We then printed out these pages in full colour and laminated them, so that they would be protected from the elements, then hung them with fishing wire. Voila! A POET TREE! The next step is for more people in the hood to contribute their own poetry for the project.
But we found that the original Poet Tree had two design flaws: one, that in windy weather, the poems would fly around and get all tangled up in the tree and each other; two, that people liked the poems -- and that's a good thing -- but then they would go and rip the now-tattered sheets off of the tree and take them home with them, leaving the Poet Tree poemless.
So we worked out the kinks, and put the new and improved version of the Poet Tree back up, better than ever. We made lots of black-and-white photocopies of each poem, so that anyone who wanted a copy could have one, and we constructed a plexiglass box with a latch that would hold the poems and protect them from the rain, and weigh them down, too, and not fly all over the place.
Version two of the Poet Tree was very successful. Within one week of being hung in the plexiglass container, all 25 copies of the poems are being snatched up by local residents and passers-by. We've had heavy wind and rain for the last few weeks, and the container and the poems within have withstood the test of the elements.
But there were still a couple of problems with version two of the Poet Tree. One, the latch to open the container is on the bottom of the container, so if someone takes a copy but then doesn't take the time to refasten the latch, the next gust of wind will send the rest of the poems flying out into the street, so I have to go out and pick up all of the scattered poems.
The other problem: the design is so freaking complicated, and made up of so many different parts, that it doesn't encourage anyone to go out and make their own Poet Tree, they figure it'll cost too much and take too much time to put together. And those are valid criticisms. So I took them into account, and this time we think we've perfected the model!
For version three, we simply took one of those clear plastic pieces that are used to hold 8 x 10 photographs upright on your desk and turned it upside down so that the slot to access the poems from and the horizontal piece to attach to are both on top. We inserted a couple of i-hooks, screwed in a scrap piece of wood for added weight, and voila! The best Poet Tree yet!
Gradually, we are conquering the commons with beauty and creating a safe public space for community. With great excitement, we await the planting of many more Poet Trees throughout the land!