SIGNS OF TIMES: Take a walk, read some poetry

Listen at 274 Park Ave. / Jessie Brown photo.'Listen' at 274 Park Ave. / Jessie Brown photo.

Have fears of Covid-19 brought you down? Need a lift?

Take a walk in Arlington and savor some wisely chosen words of the "Walking Poetry Project," an environmental effort by town public-arts advocate Adria Arch and poet Jessie Brown. The project is "on the move" placed temorarily at various locations around town, so try to keep up.

One spot, at 274 Park Ave., in the Heights, asks you to pause and practice gratitude. Called "Listen," like other project installations, it merges words and art in a more serious rendering of the old Burma-Shave roadside ads. It asks:

Are you tongue-tied then,
and have you
nothing to give thanks for?
Look.  Listen with
your whole pulse, with
each cell you’ve forgotten.  
Notice the rabbit in the field.  Sun;
blue sky.  Blades
of timothy, and cold
sweet clover.  
The hawk’s shadow sliding
over the grass, and gone.

Music, trees

These lines were also set to music by Jonathan Gilbert, an Arlington musician and composer who has performed with and directed a number of local groups. A few years ago, in an interdisciplinary celebration called “The Gift of Hands,” a choir performed "Listen" at First Parish.

Another installation is “Why I Miss the Lost Trees,” at 107 Jason St.:

because I could stand under one when it rained
because their leaves left ghost-prints on sidewalks
because I had no brothers or sisters

because bark swells and splits and bandages itself
because each branch holds the whole form
because trees grow taller than houses

because they hold the tumbling hillsides back
because buds swell even in winter
because they’re older than we are

because they have witnessed all our transgressions
because the trees can’t do anything
but welcome us anyway

Current, past history

Arch told YourArlington that the pair collaborated on this effort originally for Menotomy Rocks Park but lacked permission to install it. "We may try again this fall," she wrote. "Meanwhile, we've been letting residents host the installation for a couple of weeks at a time, in order to lift some spirits."

Arch said this was their third collaboration. The first one was for the exhibition "Art Rocks Menotomy," in 2014. 

"Jessie's poetry uses nature as metaphor so beautifully, and I am inspired by her work to create these pieces that require the viewer/reader to walk by each placard in order to read the poem. The backs of the placards offer a completely different visual experience in which the tone of the poem is evoked in color and imagery."

“Lost Trees” has been displayed on Renfrew and Jason streets, while “Listen” has toured on Kensington Park and on Park Avenue.

The second installation, “Why I Miss the Lost Trees” -- originally part of the CrossRoads environmental exhibit on the Fenway, near the MFA, and later displayed at the 2019 Earth day celebration on Boston Common -- is at 107 Jason.  

A fourth is in the works, involving arts consultant Cecily Miller and those at Arlington Public Art. It aims to go up along the bike path this summer.

May 5, 2014: A first: Outdoor art rocked Menotomy

This news summary was published Friday, May 29, 2020.

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