"All of us are poets, but we just need to be reminded sometimes," says Colleen Delaney, an arts activist and attorney who organized a New York City event that aimed to encourage collaboration between public art and public poetry.
The setting was "The Gates," Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s public art project that opened in New York City's Central Park on February 12. With 7,500 16-foot-high gates draped in orange fabric along 23 miles of footpaths, the public art installation has been billed as a "visual golden river." "The Gates, Central Park, New York, 1979-2005," the piece’s official title, brought more than a million visitors from around the city, country, and world, into a park that is not usually quite so populated during the winter months.
Inspired by the response to "The Gates," Delaney and New York City poet Douglas Rothschild organized an event for Saturday, February 26, the final weekend of the exhibit. Between 1:00 and 5:00 p.m., local poets lined the gates in pairs to read poems inspired by the work, giving voice to the visuals. These so-called "ambassadors to poetry" also provided paper and pencils for visitors to write spontaneous poems.
With the help of Poetic Graffiti and the Bowery Poetry Club, as well as the support of The Poetry Project at Saint Mark's Church in the Bowery and A Gathering of the Tribes, this grassroots event grew as word of the project spread. There has been discussion of an eventual exhibition of photographs and poems involving "The Gates," as well as a book commemorating the exhibit.
"'The Gates', themselves, are a conduit," said Delaney, who called the installation the most photographed event in New York City since 9/11.
This is the second time Delaney has helped organize a response to highly public event. Beginning in September 2001, she began collecting and exhibiting photography of responding to the 9/11 attacks. The exhibit eventually became the book Here is New York: A Democracy of Photographs. All proceeds from the book went went to the Children's Aid Society WTC Relief Fund.
As with Here is New York, any proceeds that arise from the "Poetry at The Gates" project will be donated to various poetry organizations throughout New York City.