in the street of the sky night walks scattering poems
April 5, 2009 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Should you find yourself wandering around the city of Leiden, the Netherlands sometime, you may notice some curious markings on the city's walls.

These Muurgedichten ("Wall Poems") adorn many of the town's streets (clickable map), and many English-language poets are represented: one John Keats, for instance, inside a bookshop; Dylan Thomas, E. E. Cummings, W.B. Yeats, some guy called William Shakespeare, or this ode to Charlie Parker by American William Waring Cuney.

But poets of many other languages and nationalities can be found throughout the city. Just to name a few: Charles Baudelaire (French), Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish - Argentina), Herman Gorter (Dutch).

And being native to this here neck of the woods I would be remiss if I were to neglect mentioning some of my favourites: apart from the Cummings one mentioned above, my hero of Dutch poetry J.C. Bloem's appropriately overgrown tribute to Paul Verlaine; and Guillaume Apollinaire's Dadaist/Surrealist "Loin du Pigeonnier" ("Far From the Dovecote").

Lastly, Muurgedichten collects manifestations of public poetry found elsewhere under its "Not in Leiden" heading. I couldn't resist a selection:

  • Humorous medical one in Brazil (Portuguese).

  • Martin Carter (Netherlands Antilles, English)

  • Excerpt from JFK's inaugural address (Boston, English)

  • Childrens Rights (Zanzibar, English)

  • Policemans Prayer (Virginia, US, English)

  • Short, brilliantly framed Byron quote (Utrecht, NL, English)

  • No man is illegal (Sittard, NL, Dutch)

  • I am a poet. Should I want the rose to bloom, the rose will bloom. (Vlaardigen, NL, Dutch)

  • You'll Think, What's That Poet Doing (Monnickendam, NL, Dutch)
    You'll think, what's that poet doing
    In our alley
    On our wall
    In our town
    When he's not from 'round here.
    To be frank: so do I.
    But still, now you're looking at me.
    I can talk to you, say
    That I am happy you're looking at me
    And then you might for instance say "likewise".
    We wouldn't have done so otherwise.
  • posted by goodnewsfortheinsane (15 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
    *ahem* that should be e. e. cummings
    posted by wheelieman at 8:11 PM on April 5, 2009

    This poem from The New Yorker should be on a building in every city around the world:
    Praise this world, Rilke says, the jerk.
    We’d stay up all night. Every angel’s
    berserk. Hell, if you slit monkeys
    for a living, you’d pray to me, too.
    I’m not so forgiving. I’m rubber, you’re glue.

    That elk is such a dick. He’s a space tree
    making a ski and a little foam chiropractor.
    I set the controls, I pioneer
    the seeding of the ionosphere.
    I translate the Bible into velociraptor.

    In front of Best Buy, the Tibetans are released,
    but where’s the whale on stilts that we were promised?
    I fight the comets, lick the moon,
    pave its lonely streets.
    The sandhill cranes make brains look easy.

    I go by many names: Buju Banton,
    Camel Light, the New York Times.
    Point being, rickshaws in Scranton.
    I have few legs. I sleep on meat.
    I’d eat your bra—point being—in a heartbeat.

    posted by ColdChef at 8:12 PM on April 5, 2009 [2 favorites]

    (also: Alien Vs. Predator explained.)
    posted by ColdChef at 8:14 PM on April 5, 2009 [1 favorite]

    In case anyone is curious about the Russian ... "Poem Hunter" to the rescue.
    posted by RavinDave at 8:20 PM on April 5, 2009

    If this were done in a small town in America, people would be up in arms about the fact that any of the poems were in other languages. Or that they're taking up valuable advertising space.
    posted by Jon_Evil at 8:32 PM on April 5, 2009

    On whether to capitalize Cummings name or not, 1 and 2 (short answer: Capitalize initials).
    posted by Kattullus at 8:33 PM on April 5, 2009 [3 favorites]

    Saw these when I was in Leiden last December. Could not find the HQ of the Bilderberg group however; assume it's an unmarked door beneath a windwill that leads to a subterranean village.
    posted by ornate insect at 8:38 PM on April 5, 2009

    We Wellingtonians (in New Zealand) can celebrate our many poems in public too - see this collection on Flickr .
    posted by vac2003 at 12:48 AM on April 6, 2009

    Three poems in Sheffield - but the poets were commissioned specifically for this, so that's pretty cool. I think there are more to come, but we're a long way fro Leiden.
    posted by Sova at 6:06 AM on April 6, 2009

    There should be more of this. Love the first link.
    posted by uni verse at 6:56 AM on April 6, 2009

    Extremely cool.
    posted by marginaliana at 7:56 AM on April 6, 2009

    A thread about Leiden, the town I was born in, and I'm late... Ah well... thanks, goodnewsfortheinsane
    posted by DreamerFi at 9:25 AM on April 6, 2009

    I lived in Leiden for a few years, and this was one of the nicest aspects of a rather nice posh old university town, only spoiled by the occasional noisily obnoxious upper-class frat-boy.
    posted by Skeptic at 10:01 AM on April 6, 2009

    I was in Leiden last summer and I found the wall poems a really beautiful way to decorate the city.

    I live in Philadelphia, which has a lot of murals, but the book nerd in me appreciates the poems more, somehow
    posted by polexa at 1:17 PM on April 6, 2009

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