Editors’ Picks: Pop-Up Poets in NYC

The following YouTube clip of a group of NYC poets surprising subway riders with guerrilla-style readings came to our attention via Issue 1 contributor Tamiko Beyer yesterday.  I thought it was so absolutely freaking cool that I had to share it here:

These poets are part of a project called PUP, “Poets in Unexpected Places” or “Pop-Up Poets.” They do exactly what their name implies: pop up in unexpected public locations (like the subway, the Botanic Gardens, a supermarket) to read poetry.  You can read about some of their experiences on their blog, in which they detail stories of people’s reactions to their performances.  My favorite, I think, is their most recent post about a Q-train ride in which one of the riders got up and started dancing, while the rest of the car clapped and cheered!  Such unexpected joy in the middle of a city that is known for its public mask of anonymity (the summer that I worked in Manhattan, we were distinctly advised by our HR trainers to put on a confident, stand-offish “subway face” while riding public transit in order to avoid sticking out).  I love the idea of bringing poetry to public spaces at unexpected times, of incorporating it into the everyday rhythms of life in playful and soul-filled ways.  PUP thrives on the idea that poetry is (and may at any time) be all around us, and that its wild spontaneity and beauty is something to be celebrated, all day, every day.

I love the idea of bringing PUP-style projects to other parts of the nation, too.  Watching the video got me all revved up imagining what it would be like to have a PUP style group in quiet little South Bend, IN, or in my parents’ tiny hometown in NJ—wouldn’t it be cool if  poets popped up in the middle of  a bank lobby, or on the South Shore line or Riverline, or in front of the public library, or in the middle of a mall or a cafe or bar?  Or even in the grocery lines at Costco or Meijer?  Or in the different departments?  You could have poets in all the aisles!  Have you ever participated in a guerilla-style poetry project?  If so, please do share your experience with us; we’d love to hear your stories!