The Poetry of Spaces – Poet’s House Challenge: Oakland

This project seeks to to explore how artful articulation through poetry might illuminate our relationship with the planet, by creating an interactive social space near Lake Merritt in Oakland, CA, that would invite the public to establish a deeper connection to science through hands on exploration of poetic language. We are especially interested in creating a space that serves to challenge the perceived barriers between art, science, and poetry by creating an interactive environment which will serve to encourage a strong sense of community, collaboration, and playful dialogue about the environment we share.
In order to create this unique space, Poets House in New York will be partnering with the Oakland Museum of California (OMC) and Oakland Public Library (OPL) (which are both conveniently located within walking distance from each other and Lake Merritt). We are working from the premise that a “sense of place” is of fundamental importance to people of all ages, everywhere — in every city, every town, every neighborhood, and every culture.

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Our proposed project takes place collectively across three sites:

Inside physical location of Oakland Museum of California and Oakland Public Library

Original Commissioned Poetry from Oakland poets which will be displayed on canvases installed at the museum and the library. The topic of these works is largely at the discretion of each individual poet however, general guidelines should include relevant environmental or scientific topics.
Commissioning poets from the Oakland/BayArea affords the opportunity to address and the following concern published in the Oakland Magazine:
“OMCA leaders recognize they must allow visitors to see themselves on the walls, hear their languages in the halls, and experience their ancestral cultures in a contemporary light.”
Sitting below each canvas will be a container/bucket full of words and letters from its respective text. A jumble of language elements pulled directly from the poem.

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Peralta Park, the public space near Lake Merritt

“And without deep, fundamental connections to visitors, a museum’s high-tech hardware could lead to distraction instead of discovery”
An original architectural form will be installed in Peralta Park. It will be an elegant frame structure made of wood or metal that will resemble a shell-like tunnel or two trees bending toward each other creating a tunnel. It will serve as the main public interaction point, providing a space to relate to poetry and nature.
The structure is supposed to be very minimalistic and bare. We would like to encourage the public to actively engage in the formation of the space through the experimentation with poetry and play with words. Visitors will shape the space by forming their own poems and phrases using the language objects from the buckets mentioned above. Each letter/word should have a way to be attached temporarily to the wireframe sculpture. The public is invited to use the language elements from the buckets to re arrange and re create new phrases and poems based on the poets original works. The structure will have frames that guide the eye to specific views of the park and the lake, to establish a relationship with words and the surrounding environment.
To make the space more welcoming and comfortable we will provide seating around the structure with books of poems available for everyone to read. We will encourage poetry exchange by ‘take a book, bring a book’ system.

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The use of social media will be incorporated in order to encourage people to post the poems they created in the park. The poems and phrases will be displayed both at the library and the museum using touch screens, and the most popular and insightful poems would be temporarily published alongside the poems in display.

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