Artwalking and American Sentences
DJs, live bands, gyrating lights. Electric hula hoops glowing in the dark. And 2,800 people dancing in the radiance of a last-of-summer Friday night. Sound like a party? It sure was, at the Seattle Art Museum’s Olympic Sculpture Park on the Elliott Bay waterfront. And it was my pleasure to be part of this event, SAM Remix, an energetic and popular celebration with a cultural twist—amid new art installations, music, crafts, and literature.
My contribution included leading a flashlight tour of the sculpture park to read poems written in response to various sculptures. I don’t have pictures of the tour itself (I was busy leading the tour, and besides, it was dark), so what follows, with the poems, are photos I took a week later, in daylight, of the various places on my tour. Each stop is marked by a number on the map, and most of the poems I read are included with the photos. For the tour, I had a walking microphone and loudspeaker, essential to be heard among the thousands of revelers in the park—and all the music.
In addition to leading my artwalking tour, I staffed an interactive poetry table (okay, a countertop), at the park’s Paccar Pavilion. Also helping was Jared Leising, 2010 curator of the Jack Straw Writers Program. We had an old IBM Selectric typewriter, a stack of typing paper, and a large flipchart. I put up instructional signs that invited people to write American Sentences, Allen Ginsberg's variation on haiku—a spontaneous single-line poem in seventeen syllables. We hardly needed to encourage anyone. People quickly started adding their poems to the flipchart paper or pecking away at the typewriter. We had a steady stream of people stopping by, and we hung many flipchart pages on the walls around our counter. Some folks wrote haiku in three lines, some wrote comments or statements without counting their syllables, but hundreds of people got into the spirit and gave it a try.
My thanks to the Seattle Art Museum for having me, along with Amber Flame, as one of two featured poets at SAM Remix (Amber performed poems written in response to a new art installation by Trenton Doyle Hancock). And a special thanks to Jared Leising and the Jack Straw Writers Program for arranging this opportunity.
Note: On the following “Silver Notes” page, some poems are not included because they may be pending publication elsewhere, or for other reasons. Also, parts of the park ended up being closed after dark, so I had to slightly modify the tour as we went along. I therefore made a number of alterations to the intended text presented here.