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Haiku on 42nd Street (1995)

Marquee of the shuttered Harris Theatre on 42nd Street in New York City displaying haiku by Minna Lerman (left) and Ellen Cowhey (right), 1995. Photo available on various commercial websites.

Haiku on 42nd Street was a project to place senryu and haiku by local poets on the marquees of abandoned movie theaters in the Times Square area of New York City. The project was curated by Dee Evetts. The poems of 26 poets were selected and installed in July 1995 and remained in place through the end of the year. The event attracted national media attention at the time, and a collection of color postcards and a book featuring the theater marquees were later published.


By the mid-1990s the Times Square area of New York City had become a seedy, undesirable neighborhood, and a renovation project was launched to make it more attractive to residents and tourists. In July 1995 senryu and haiku by 26 New York City–area poets were installed on the marquees of empty movie houses on 42nd Street at Times Square. Mounted by the Creative Time public art organization as part of Art on 42nd Street, the project was curated by haiku poet Dee Evetts with the support of the Spring Street Haiku Group. The installations remained on display for six months.

Haiku on 42nd Street attracted widespread public attention and the project was featured in local and national media, including NY1 TV, the McNeil Lehrer Newshour, and The New Yorker magazine. Cor van den Heuvel, one of the participating poets, remembered that “many of the haiku remained there for several years before renovation of the area took place and the old theaters were replaced. [It became] a part of Times Square history.1

The marquees were photographed in black and white by Thom Lang and in color by Richard Hunt. A set of postcards picturing each marquee and a 26˝ x 22˝ color poster combining the postcards and identifying the poets were made available for purchase.

Below are the 26 haiku that were featured on the 42nd Street theaters. The formatting is intended to replicate their appearance on the marquees.

ANDROGYNOUS
STRANGER
WINKS AT ME

Karen Sohne
                DOLL HOSPITAL
THE MAN BRINGS OUT
                                A TRAY
        OF NEW BLUE EYES

Patricia Neubauer
ON THE TWELFTH FLOOR
A LIFE’S WORK HOLDS OPEN
THE BOOK REVIEWER’S DOOR

Martin Burke
ORION
HAS HE PUT
ON WEIGHT?

Carl Patrick
CITY STREET
MY SUITCASE BUMPS
HIS CARDBOARD BOX

Minna Lerman
CAR PILED WITH LUGGAGE
STRAYING INTO THE FUNERAL
PROCESSION

Yvonne Hardenbrook
SLOWLY RECOGNIZING
A LARGE DOG
IN THE CAR AHEAD

Penny Harter
DONE
THE SHOESHINE BOY
SNAPS HIS RAG

Alan Pizzarelli
       IN THE LAUNDERMAT
                    SHE PEERS
          INTO THE MACHINE
AS THE SUN GOES DOWN

Sydell Rosenberg
HOT DAY
UNDER TIGHT
WHITE SLACKS
JUST HER

L. A. Davidson
BETWEEN THE MOON
AND THE BILLBOARD
A JET LINER RISING

Adele Kenny
WITH HIS CLIPPERS
THE FLORIST PRUNES
HIS CIGAR

Evan Mahl
MY REFLECTION
SPLATTERED
BY THE CITY BUS
ONTO MY PANTS

Mykel Board
     WITH A FLOURISH
THE WAITRESS LEAVES BEHIND
                REARRANGED SMEARS

Dee Evetts
THE DRIVER
PALMS HIS CIGARETTE
                                    OPENS
THE HEARSE DOOR

Anita Virgil
IN GREENWICH VILLAGE
TOURISTS ASKING
                   HOW TO GET
TO GREENWICH VILLAGE

Bernard Lionel Einbond
GOING OVER A BUMP
THE CAR AHEAD
GOING OVER A BUMP

William J. Higginson
OUTSIDE THE DELI
PRIMROSES & DAFFODILS
     I OPEN MY COAT

Perdita Finn
HIGH ABOVE THE CITY
DAWN FLARES
FROM A WINDOW-WASHER’S PAIL

Coe van den Heuvel
ALMOST FULL MOON
A LUXURIOUS VOICE
ON THE ANSWERING MACHINE

Alexis Rotella
BACK FROM THE MOUNTAINS
               A YELLOW HANDRAIL
                                   GUIDES ME
    DOWN THE SUBWAY STAIRS

Clark Strand
FIRST SNOW
BROUGHT IN
          FROM THE SUBURBS
ON THE NEIGHBORS’ CAR

Doris Heitmeyer
SUNLIGHT SHINES RED
THROUGH MY FATHER’S THUMB
ON THE STEERING WHEEL

Alyson Pou
INTO THE BLINDING SUN
THE FUNERAL PROCESSION’S
GLARING HEADLIGHTS

Nicholas A. Virgilio
HER BIFOCALED EYES
MAGNETIZED TO THE HEM
OF MY TOO-SHORT SKIRT

Ellen Cowhey
    CRESCENT MOON
STREET CLOWN BOWS
   TO HER LAUGHTER
Anthony J. Pupello

Compiled by the Haikupedia Editors

Sources / Further Reading

Spring Street Haiku Group

  1. Cor van den Heuvel, Facebook, September 26, 2011. []
Updated on December 26, 2023