Web Map Locates Poetry Mailboxes by Petra Whitaker
Every spring, in celebration of National Poetry Month, poetry boxes pop up near sidewalks and in front yards throughout the U.S. Poetry enthusiasts place copies of favorite poems in handcrafted, curbside boxes similar to real estate flier receptacles. Signs attached to wood posts read, Take One or Free Poetry.
Some cities display poetry boxes year round. Hand-drawn maps are often provided at visitor centers for tourists to locate boxes on walks or on leisurely drives through the city. However, the maps are frequently printed in limited numbers and are sometimes difficult to find.
Poets in Portland, Oregon, have found a solution for locating poetry boxes scattered throughout the city. Poet and programmer, Matt Blair, designed a detailed web map, which displays points representing each box’s address along with a photo of the box and information about the location or owner. Visitors can now access the map online, plan routes, and print out a map of the various box locations.
On any given day, poetry enthusiasts can be found collecting poems throughout the city. “This has just created a great sense of community throughout the entire Portland area,” says poet and resident, John Milliken. Milliken and Blair discuss the web map and poetry boxes in a documentary by Gus Bendinelli called, Portland’s Poetry Posts.
Blair discusses plans to reach an even wider audience. He’s working on an iPhone application that can be accessed on-site. “The main idea is that you can find these as you’re walking around the neighborhood,” says Blair. “You could zoom in on your current location and find what’s within walking distance near you.” Portland’s poetry-box web map is located at www.poetrybox.info. Information about the iPhone application will also be posted on the site when the application is released.