Friday, May 4, 2012

The Poetry Garage

We had been parking at the 201 West Madison Self Park in downtown Chicago for years, when all of a sudden, pretty much exactly a year ago, it turned into "The Poetry Garage." Now each floor of the garage is dedicated to a different poet.

On the one hand, I think it's a neat idea to give patrons a poem to read while they're waiting for the elevator, or let them remember that they parked on the Emily Dickinson level. On the other hand, I still think it's an odd idea because parking and poetry really don't go together, at least not for me. Because of this garage, I've tried to put them together, I really have, but it just doesn't work for me.


In the beginning, they also played an audio recording of that level's poem in the elevator vestibule. I would try to concentrate on listening to the poem, but either the elevator clanged before the recording was finished, or it had begun in the middle, or the poem was altogether too long to be listened to in the few seconds the elevator might take to appear. Those recordings ended up going on my nerves. I know this sounds odd coming from someone who loves poetry, but waiting for the elevator, when I've just parked my car and am clearly on an errand, just isn't the proper time to enjoy a poem. For me, poetry is a contemplative pursuit, ideally enjoyed when the house is quiet, and I am in the frame of mind to wrap my head around words. I want to be able to get into a poem, and I just can't do that in an elevator vestibule.


I don't know who at Hammerschlag & Co. Inc., the company that manages The Poetry Garage, came up with the idea. I do appreciate that they are honoring poets, even if it has to be in the most mundane of urban venues, a parking garage. At the very least, perhaps, it makes people aware of poets they might not have heard of or rediscover an old "friend" they might not have read since high school. Perhaps people go home and look up Carl Sandburg or Billy Collins. Perhaps they wonder, like I do, why these particular poets were chosen. Thankfully, though, the garage has done away with the annoying recordings, and so, if the elevator takes a long time, and no other patron is chattering on his cell phone, even I can enjoy a stanza of Emily Dickinson's "Success is Counted Sweetest."

11 comments:

  1. I can't decide if I like it or not. maybe some contemporary urban artists would be more appropriate to choose. but I still prefer something artsy like this to ordinary parking place.

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  2. Hi, I'm a fellow blogathon participant!

    This has got to be the one of the oddest things I've ever heard of! I'm all for culture and whatnot, but when I'm in a parking garage, I'm focused on one of two things: getting from my car to where I need to be, or getting back to my car so I can get the hell out. Not sure that poetry in a parking garage would really work for me!

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  3. I love the idea, Annette. It may seem odd, but it's better than plastering advertising all over. We don't honor our artists enough in this country, and for me honoring means making them part of everyday life. We never know what it might mean to someone who's not a poetry person to stop in her day and read a few lines of Dickinson.

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  4. Very interesting. You have to wonder who thinks of doing something like this. LOL

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  5. It does seem a bit odd. Toronto Transit Commission has a program called Poetry On The Way in its subway system. This works well because you're sitting, maybe with nothing to do, and it's always welcome to find a poem in place of one of the ads.

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  6. Interesting. The NJ Turnpike names their rest stops for famous NJ artists.

    I love the idea of using names to help us remember where we parked, and posting poems and pictures around the lot.

    The audio recording, while a fine idea, just seems impracticable.

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  7. Anette, this is most unusual, but I kinda like it. I love poetry and while a garage is not exactly a place to wrap your head around a poem I think for the under-exposed, poetry challenged it might be a place of learning. thanks for sharing this unique place.
    Patti

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  8. ha ha- this reminds me of Ecclesiastes when it says "there is a time for everything..." and sometimes it is NOT the time for poetry-- I know when I'm rushing into the post office and that pesky person outside wants me to sign a petition...I'm like "HELLO??? I'm in a hurry- and I do NOT have time to do this now..."....when is the best time to sign a petition ...I'm not sure..

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  9. Vielleicht ist es auch wie ein Sinnbild zu verstehen: Poesie ist ueberall, wenn wir nur genau schauen und bereit sind dafuer. Und schon ein Satz oder ein Wort, egal ob Parkhaus oder u-Bahnstation, kann etwas anstossen und in Gang setzen. Was allerdings die akustische Berieselung betrifft, die finde ich, ist ein absolutes no-go. Unsere Welt ist ohnehin viel zu laut, da braucht es eher die Stille, um die Poesie um uns heraum ueberhaupt wahrnehmen und aufnehmen zu koennen.

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  10. Odd...but I like it. Anything that encourages reading is a win in my eyes!

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  11. that is very different. i'm with you- don't know if I like it or not.

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