July 25, 2011

Berkeley, CA. November, 2005

In Berkeley even the sidewalks sing. And sing so beautifully. Allen Ginsberg is here. So is Shakespeare. And Bertolt Brecht. And Sappho. And this lovely, simple Ohlone song, too. It was a beautiful late morning in early November that I chanced upon these poems in concrete, stopped, read, snapped, moved on enriched. The Berkeley Poetry Walk, installed in 2003 along Addison Street in an effort to “revitalize” downtown, is made up of 128 two-foot-square cast-iron panels (coated with a porcelain enamel that will develop an aged patina over time), each weighing 55 pounds and each bearing a poem with a connection to the city. Some are by residents (Ginsberg, Gertrude Stein and the Ohlone Indians who once lived on the grounds where the city now stands), some whose link is more subtly implied. The choices were made by former US Poet Laureate Robert Haas, who observed, “Urban spaces are full of language. There is, if anything, too much of it....” What a great idea, then, to edit it down to this beautiful selection. Take a walk and encounter a new poem every few steps. Slow down.

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