Poems will soon be popping up on scenic piers, bucolic tree-lined paths, and historical structures in parks throughout the five boroughs of New York City. The installations are part of the new “Park Poems” initiative presented by the NYC Parks Department and The Poetry Society of America. The first five new poetry installations were installed and unveiled this week.

Park Poems
Image Courtesy of NYC Parks

Park Poems will transform the words of poetry into site-specific works of public art. The installations will complement surrounding landscapes and park infrastructure. The poems selected all focus on a theme of reflection, and they come from across the globe. Poems in foreign languages are presented in both the original language and an English translation.

To celebrate the start of this new initiative, NYC Parks Commissioner Sue Donoghue, The Poetry Society of America Executive Director Matt Brogan, poet Edward Hirsch, and students from P.S. 676 and Summit Academy Charter School unveiled the installation at Valentino Pier in Red Hook, Brooklyn.

Park Poems
Image Courtesy of NYC Parks, Clason Point

Hirsch did a reading of his poem “I Was Never Able to Pray,” which now appears on undulating see-through plaques along the pier, overlooking New York Harbor and sites like the Statue of Liberty. Before the unveiling, students crafted poems of their own, arranging stanzas out of park-themed Velcro word sets

Park Poem installations will remain on view for about one year after debuting. The five poems and parks that are part of the program this year include “Twilight” by W.S. Merwin at Clason Point Park, in the Bronx, “I Was Never Able to Pray” by Edward Hirsch at Valentino Pier Park in Brooklyn, “Oscura luz / Dark Light” by Francisco X. Alarcón (Spanish/English) at Sunken Playground in Manhattan, “我坐在這裡 / I Sit Here” by Liu Xia (Chinese/English) at Clove Lakes Park in Staten Island, and “Six Tankas” by Harryette Mullen at Francis Lewis Park, in Queens.

Park Poems
Image Courtesy of NYC Parks, Francis Lewis Park

Next, check out 10 Public Art Installations to See in NYC this April and 10 Favorite Poets and Their Adventures in NYC