Poetry Walks & Book Fences

April may be National Poetry Month, but poetry is available every month in some public places.

The Berkeley Hills in California have hidden paths, hidden only if you are not paying attention: they have signs that tell you they are there. Yosemite Steps is the only one of the paths that I know of that has a Poetry Fence.

In DelRay, VA, a neighbor created a poetry fence as well, this one featuring pens on strings so passersby can comment.

In Tempe, AZ, you can find Words Over Water, a 4,800 pound stone book at Tempe Town Lake, a collaboration by Alberto Rios, Karla Elling, and Harry Reese.

A poetry garden created in 1999 in memory of Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Robert Duncan, and other Beat poets who lived in the neighborhood may be found at the Berkeley Arts Magnet Elementary School at Lincoln and Milvia streets in Berkeley, CA. At one time they held an annual open mic in the garden on the last Saturday in April, but when I dropped by this week the garden looked wintry, the poetry by students sunfaded, the fence, neglected. This garden needs some love (and, possibly, money).

In Boston, MA, the Berkeley Community Garden, now run by a nonprofit group apparently has "poetic fragments excerpted from gardeners' conversations" in Chinese and English built into water basins and thresholds. The gardeners speak Chinese, English, Creole, Spanish and Portuguese. Some photos of the garden are here. Community poetry in a community garden sounds good to me.

Creating a pocket-sized "book fence" might be an interesting collaborative project with six friends, neighbors, or book group participants. Each person makes a Woven Accordion (Making Handmade Books, page 135 or Painted Paper, page 148) without the cards, and prints out six copies of a favorite poem on paper. Exchange poems, fold them in half, and weave the folded poems into the accordion. You could make six slim single-signature pamphlets instead. Here are the dimensions for the variation shown in the photograph below:

  • Use heavyweight paper, 18 x 5" (45.7 x 12.7 cm), grained short, for the accordion.
  • Instead of two slits as described in the book, make four slits parallel to the longest side that are 1" and 1 1/2" (2.5 and 3.8 cm) from head and tail.
  • Print out, type, or write out six copies of a poem (you can get 4 on a page of standard copy paper) and cut down to 4 1/4 x 5" (10.8 x 12.7 cm), grained long.


Thanks, Alisa! This poet likes this idea!