New York City launches haiku street safety signs
Call it Curbside Haiku.
The New York City Department of Transportation has posted 144 new street safety signs with haiku and artwork by artist John Morse. There are 12 designs in all.
“Cyclist writes screenplay
Plot features bike lane drama
Why use the traditional Japanese poetry form of five syllables/seven syllables/five syllables for safety messages?
“Poetry has a lot of power,” Morse tells NPR’s Scott Simon. “If you say to people: ‘Walk.’ ‘Don’t walk.’ Or, ‘Look both ways.’ If you can tweak it just a bit — and poetry does that — the device gives these simple words power.”
Haiku also cuts through the clutter of competing messages.
“There’s a lot of visual clutter … all around us,” Morse says. “So the idea is to bring something to the streetscape that might catch someone’s eye.”
Haiku generates response.
Plus, haiku engages audiences.
“One of the joys of doing this sort of thing is how many people have responded to it with their own haiku,” Morse says. “There’s just a plethora of haiku coming out. It’s so exciting.”
Indeed. Gothamist writes:
Money from drunk driver fines
To buy new haikus!”
“While reading the sign,
I walked into the post. Ow.
“Only in New York —
Poetic signs in motion.
Slow down; look both ways.”
Then there’s this one:
“Somebody stop me
From compulsively penning
These third-rate haiku.”
The New York DOT is selling the posters, and they’re fabulous. (FYI: My birthday is Feb. 13, and I need word-based art for my new office …)
Six ways to get the word out in 17 syllables
How can you communicate with haiku? Use the traditional Japanese poetic form to:
1. Announce news. Jonathan Schwartz, chief executive of Sun Microsystems, announced his resignation on Twitter with a haiku:
Stalled too many customers
CEO no more.”
2. Present tips. Heather Lloyd Martin of SuccessWorks offers these SEO copywriting tips in haiku:
“Don’t ‘write for engines’
Google doesn’t buy from you
But your prospects do.”
And Entergy’s Chris Smith offers haiku editing advice.
4. Let web visitors down lightly. David Dixon won Salon’s Haiku Error Messages challenge with this verse:
“Three things are certain:
Death, taxes, and lost data.
Guess which has occurred.”
5. Write executive quotes. New York writer and blogger Grace arranged Charlie Sheen’s quotes into haiku:
“I got tiger blood,
man. Dying’s for fools, dying
is for amateurs.”
Why not do the same for your subjects?
6. Develop PR pitches. Jennifer Boulden, PR pro at Fort Smith, Ark., Convention & Visitors Bureau, offers this pitch:
“Fort Smith, Arkansas:
Outlaws, hangings, prostitutes.
Bad guys, great stories.”
Write in and win.
What can you accomplish in 17 syllables? Send us your best writing tips in haiku by Feb. 17. Winner gets an amazing prize.