One of the best things about living in NYC is seeing strange and wonderful public art. Most cities have public art projects, and NYC is no different. There are mosaics and live music in the subway. There are statues standing around in parks and plazas. There are temporary projects, like street pianos and The Gates and the floating island, and there are beloved fixtures like the Alice in Wonderland statue in Central Park.
New York also has a lively amount of public poetry, too. There are poems on buses and in the subways, and some of it is even sponsored by the MTA. Most of it is pretty good stuff.
Some of it is downright odd, though. The strangest example is a series of nine signs pasted to the support beams lining the tunnel between the A and the 1 train on 42nd street. Each sign contains one line of an angst-filled poem called “A Commuter’s Lament”. You can read them here
I have no idea why the city went with the theme of “life sucks” for this particular public work, but there it is. Apparently, the artist meant it as a statement of empathy for us poor working stiffs: “Yes, you have to get up and go to a pointless job at 6:00 a.m. Although I’m an artist that sleeps til noon, I feel for you.” Side note: some misguided optimists tried to alter the basic message, but fortunately all was restored to doom and gloom eventually.
Public notices written as poems are much more fun. Try the “curbside haiku”. These little gems appear alongside normal road signs, right under “No parking” and “West Side This Way (arrow points to south)” They are a public service to warn pedestrians not to be hit by cars. This is more necessary than you might think.
Here’s my favorite.
She walks in beauty
Like the night. Maybe that’s why
Drivers can’t see her.
New Yorkers loves haiku. It’s short and gets to the point fast. None of this “I hear America singing” nonsense – you should be able to tweet it or forget it. That’s why ads for Broadway plays don’t print the whole review – just the part where the reviewer says “go see it”. If the writer says “never, ever go see it”, then I assume the ad finds something else to print.
The point is, haiku is both elegant AND useful. The other point is, before you plunk down the big bucks to go to the theater, you should know what you’re going to get.
Haiku can help.
Here are some Broadway Haiku to get you started.
Hottest show in town
Maybe you’ll get to see it
If you’d love to spend
Each day in the Magic Kingdom
Then you will love this
Phantom of the Opera
City buses have
Big ads for Phantom on their sides
Save your dollar bills.
The Judas Kiss
Everything at BAM
Is usually pretty good
So what the heck?
Is your Mom coming
Soon to visit? I bet she might
Enjoy this show.
Blue Man Group
What is wrong with you?
Do you think you are on a cruise?
This is New York City.
Try takeout sushi
In summer, if you wish to vomit,
Or see this show
They don’t make ‘em
Like this anymore. That’s because
It’s not ’63
Oh my god. I can’t
Handle another cast that includes