Award #44: Poetry Houses


Poetry Houses are bright, funky, fun, unexpected, Pittsburgh-specific, and in-your-face. Imagine as you walk through the city–on your way to work or during an evening out with friends—seeing a tiny wooden box on the sidewalk. Behind that box’s plexiglass door are four postcard-sized poems, free for the taking. Every two weeks, a brand new batch of four poems will arrive like magic.

This is the vision behind the public art project. Sarah Boyle, one of the project’s originators, explains:

The motivating factor behind Poetry Houses is to make poetry fun and accessible–both intellectually accessible and physically accessible. These days, poetry has a reputation for being impossible to understand and meaningless in everyday life. We want to show people that poems evoke everything from strange and mystifying to simple and sweet. By installing Poetry Houses alongside heavily-trafficked sidewalks, we physically make poetry a part of people’s everyday lives.

The Awesome Pittsburgh grant money covers the cost of building and maintaining two Poetry Houses. The project’s founders will use a “call for submissions” process to garner future poems, thereby engaging not only readers but writers and poets as well. The project is expressly designed to give local writers and young writers a platform, and of course there will be an online component so audiences outside of the city can access the poems.

Awesome Pittsburgh trustee Jeb Feldman loved that this project “involved people of all ages and experience levels, connected different neighborhoods by a common project, and was also able to reach a larger audience by being available online. Hopefully, this awesome idea will inspire people—who might not otherwise—write or think about poetry.”