Friday, January 06, 2006

Art About Town- Berkeley-The Poetry Plates

"Poetry is the music of the soul, and, above all, of great and feeling souls."


The weather here in the East Bay has been moody lately. We have had a record year so far for rainfall, and we are having more thunderstorms then we usually have. I love a good thunderstorm, and in fact I used to go swimming when we would have them because I really enjoyed the way the air feels when it is all full of energy. Everything is different. The air smells different, it is usually quiet except for the rumbling across the sky. It excites me. Lately however, I haven't been able to enjoy the rain as much as in previous years. The damp weather now makes the joints in my hands swell, and sometimes it hurts too much to type. It's ok, I am adjusting to the new changes my body is dictating. On days when I can't write the way I want to...I read. I have always been an avid reader, but as I began to write my book and do more photography I found myself putting off reading some of the books I had been wanting to explore. Like a book of poetry I had purchased a while back and then promptly forgot about. It has been enjoyable to read the lovely prose, and relaxing to imagine the romantic thoughts they tend to inspire.

Well, this past week, we have been given a reprieve from the weatherman and so we are now enjoying some lovely winter days filled with bright sun and some nearly 70 degree heat. Good weather for writing, but it is also good weather for sitting the back yard with my kitty at my feet, my favorite chenille sweater around my shoulders, and a good book in my hand. It has been nice, but I am finding that I sometimes I just have to get out and do a little walking. Just short trips to satisfy the vagabond in me. I decided this past Wednesday to take a short walk around the downtown area here in Berkeley, in the arts and commerce section. There is a street here I have been meaning to take a look at. It is a street of poetry.

In October of 2003, the city of Berkeley, began installing cast iron poetry panels along the edge of the curb on Addison Street, between Shattuck Avenue and Milvia Street. Engraved on each panel is a poem chosen for the project by, former poet laureate, Robert Hass. Mr Hass chose each poem for the walk, based on each authors personal inspiration and passion for the town of Berkeley and the Bay Area. There are poems by authors such as Robert Duncan, Thorton Wilder, Lyn Hejinian, Alice Walker, Gertrude Stein, Jack London and Allen Ginsberg, who wrote the poem "Howl" while visiting, The Greek Theater, here in Berkeley.

Last Wednesday as I walked along the street, just drinking in the sweet, warm winter air, and enjoying the poetry, I felt good. Really good. I love going out and experiencing art as it lives and breathes around me. Art is a lifeform like no other. Poetry is important to calms my nerves and inspires me. It makes me feel less lonely and alone. It inspires my daydreams and provokes my emotions. As much as I enjoy sculptures and paintings, poetry is at times, the only way to cure a case of the wearies from my soul. I only took a few pictures the other day, but I think I will be coming back downtown to photograph more of the poetry plates and bring the walk to my journal as part of my continuing series, "Art About Town." The following is one of the poems I read the other day which really spoke to would understand if you have ever visited Mendocino County, located in Northern California. It is beauty defined.

Mendocino Memory
By June Jordan

Half moon
cold and low above the poplar tree
and sweet pea petals
pink and white/ what
on this personal best night
for casual stars
and silky constellations
streaming brilliant
through the far
forgetful darkness
of the sky

I found the other half
above the pillow
where you lay
face to one side
with nothing in the world
or the next
to hide.

Art About Town
"Poetry Walk"
Berkeley, California
January 4th, 2005


Karen Funk Blocher said...

I love that this exists. When I was in college the first time, back in Syracuse, there was a NEA project called "Poetry in Public Places." One of the public places used was the city buses. I memorized a poem that was on one of the buses. It was perfect for Syracuse:

If it's not one thing it's another
(Muffler I have to wear)
Don't you know I come from
A stronger breed of Vikings?
We ate you people for breakfast.

Author unknown

I Googled this, but no luck.


Dave said...

You're making me wish I lived in Berkley! :) Grad school's fun, but this east coast thing has got to go when I'm finished!

V said...

Aww, Carly, it sounds as if you`re feeling better.