Seattle Civic Poet brings poetry to public places – including Greenwood – in April

by | Apr 1, 2024

Article by The Bureau of Fearless Ideas, special to PhinneyWood

Can you feel it in the air? Can you hear it? Spring has arrived in Phinneywood, and with it a medley of birdsong and poetry. That’s right — April is National Poetry Month, and this year, Seattle’s Civic Poet, Shin Yu Pai is creating something special to fill public spaces all over the city with poetry — including right here in Greenwood!

On April 1st, Shin Yu Pai will launch a multi-site public poetry installation for National Poetry Month, highlighting local poets writing about Seattle places with an emphasis on sustainability. After inviting public input on the theme, Shin Yu Pai announced a call for short poems, and selected five pieces for the project. Pai then collaborated with graphic designer and teacher, Jayme Yen, to transform the poems into dazzling visual elements including postcards, posters, window clings, vinyl banners, cut-paper installation and a map of the featured sites.

Among the locations where you can view the poetry installations this April include:

  • Seattle Public Library (Downtown and South park)
  • Wa Na Wari
  • Friends of Little Saigon
  • Slide Gallery
  • Seattle Municipal Tower Gallery
  • And… The Bureau of Fearless Ideas (right here in Greenwood!)

The campaign features Seattle poets Kathya Alexander, Bryna Antonia (Á Thanh) Cortes, Cindy Luong, Joe Nasta, and Bryan Wilson. Posters and postcards with their poetry can be downloaded from an online gallery here. The public is encouraged to download, distribute and post images.

Here in the Phinney-Greenwood neighborhood, you can see poetry in the window of the Bureau of Fearless Ideas — the non-profit writing and storytelling organization for youth at the corner of 85th and Greenwood Avenue. At this site, the public poetry campaign will highlight a poem by Bureau of Fearless Ideas staff, Bryan Wilson. Wilson has been working here in the Greenwood neighborhood for 8 years, and says, “I’m grateful for the opportunity to share my poem with the city and neighborhood I work in, which is such a creative place filled with readers and storytellers, superhero librarians and folks of all ages dedicated to making it an inspiring and welcoming place to write from.” Wilson’s poem is called “Atmospheric River” and celebrates that constant Seattle companion, rain. The design of the poem by Jayme Yen takes the ideas in the poem to wondrous heights, with cascading scrolls of giant paper in which some of the lines of Wilson’s poem are cut out. The result is a feeling of a Pacific Northwest spring squall. Wilson says that the way Pai and Yen imagined his poem show how poetry and visual art together can imaginatively and powerfully transform public spaces, and he hopes that sharing his work in this way will help encourage the young writers he works with at the Bureau of Fearless Ideas to share their ideas too — this Poetry Month and beyond.

Be sure to check out all of the Poetry in Place installations this April, and celebrate National Poetry Month alongside Shin Yu Pai and our creative community. Here’s a map designed for the campaign, where you can see all of the poetry locations.

This public poetry program is made possible by the Academy of American Poets with funds from the Mellon Foundation. This project was also supported by The Windrose Fund. Shin Yu’s role as Civic Poet is supported by the Office of Arts & Culture and Seattle City of Literature.

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