(Courtesy of Mass Poetry)
(Courtesy of Mass Poetry)
(Courtesy of Mass Poetry)
(Courtesy of Mass Poetry)
(Courtesy of Mass Poetry)
(Courtesy of Mass Poetry)
(Courtesy of Mass Poetry)

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When It Rains in Boston, the Sidewalks Reveal Poetry

Water-resistant spray paint creates hidden poems on Beantown’s streets


If you’re walking through Boston during a downpour, make sure to keep your eyes on the pavement: you might just see a poem appear before your eyes. For the last few months, Bostonians wandering the city streets in the rain may have come across poems written on the sidewalk.

Titled “Raining Poetry,” this art installation is a collaboration between the nonprofit Mass Poetry and the city of Boston. The first poems were installed on April 1 to commemorate the start of this year’s National Poetry Month, with several more added to the city’s streets on May 13. Created using stencils and a water-repellant spray, the poems are invisible during dry, sunny weather, but appear like magic once raindrops start falling from the sky, Aria Bendix writes for CityLab.

“We want to bring poetry to the people,” Sara Siegel, program director for the nonprofit Mass Poetry, tells Bendix.

The poems were selected by Danielle Legros Georges, Boston’s Poet Laureate, and include written works by artists like Langston Hughes, Gary Duehr, Barbara Helfgott Hyett, and Elizabeth McKim. Scattered throughout the city, Georges selected the poems based on their relationship to Boston, as well as the general themes of water and rain, Cristela Guerra reports for the Boston Globe.

“I wanted to draw work from poets influential in the Boston-area literary, educational, or cultural realms,” Georges said in a statement.

The poems were each installed by members of the Mayor’s Mural Crew, a local youth organization that introduces young artists to the process of creating public art. Using a biodegradable spray and simple cardboard stencils, the poems can be fixed to the sidewalk in a matter of minutes and should wear away in six to eight weeks. However, the city of Boston and Mass Poetry plan on carpeting city sidewalks with more poems in the weeks and months to come.

“It’s a public art project—as the poems are and will be installed in public sites in Boston, and meant for everyone,” Georges said. “I think this is a wonderful way to bring poetry to the people.”

Right now, the poems appear throughout the city, in neighborhoods from Hyde Park to Roslindale. While all of the poems currently installed are written in English, Siegel hopes to add new ones in the many languages that are spoken throughout Boston, like Portuguese, Haitian Creole and Spanish, Guerra reports.

“Our hope is in the next two years everyone in the state will encounter a poem in their daily lives at least once or twice a month,” Siegel tells Guerra. “This a fun and unusual way to do that.”

So if you’re out and about in Beantown the next time it rains, keep an eye to the ground: you might just spot a poem glistening under the raindrops.

About Danny Lewis

Danny Lewis is a multimedia journalist working in print, radio, and illustration. He focuses on stories with a health/science bent and has reported some of his favorite pieces from the prow of a canoe. Danny is based in Brooklyn, NY.

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