May 23, 2023
Philadelphians will witness the magic of a haiku when it rains this summer as unique water-activated poetry installations pop up across the city.
Through the Rain Poetry project, community nonprofits PA Humanities and Tiny WPA are installing the Japanese three-line poems, written by local elementary school students, on the sidewalks of public parks and along high-traffic spaces in five Philly neighborhoods. Using a biodegradable rain-activated solution, the poems will be hidden to the eye until the words are revealed with a splash of water.
After installation was pushed back due to, ironically, stormy weather, 10 poems were stamped in Germantown’s Vernon Park (5818 Germantown Avenue) on Saturday. From June–September, 40 more poems will be added to public areas in West Philly, North Philly, South Philly and Kensington.
A reveal party will take place on Saturday, June 10, in West Philly's Carroll Park (5801 W. Girard Ave) at 10 a.m., with live performances and interactive poetry stations.
The haikus were written by first through fifth grade students as the culmination of a four-month poetry education program, which was facilitated by past and present Philadelphia youth poets laureate. Kids used the writing prompt "What helps you keep growing?" Participating schools include Emlen Elementary (Germantown), Samuel Powel Elementary (West Philly), Chester A. Arthur School (South Philly) and Al-Aqsa Islamic Academy (Kensington), as well as North Philly's Lillian Marrero Library and the Mighty Writers nonprofit.
Former Philadelphia Poet Laureate Trapeta B. Mayson, in collaboration with other prominent local poets, helped develop and facilitate the Rain Poetry vision. Mayson has previously installed water-activated poetry about the impacts of flooding in Germantown.
“Through Rain Poetry, we’ve asked over 100 youth to look inside themselves and identify what helps them grow, leading to infinite possibilities for creativity, introspection and discovery," said Dawn Frisby Byers, PA Humanities’ senior director of content and engagement. "It’s an unprecedented opportunity for children to share what makes them healthy, what they need to grow and what makes them whole.”
Information on the Rain Poetry installation locations will be updated online as the summer progresses.
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