An initiative by Phantom Billstickers* to provoke some thought, while putting some beauty back into the world’s streets, has seen POETRY POSTERS featuring poems by New Zealand and American poets plastered all over New Zealand as well as Sydney, Paris and several American cities including Nashville, Knoxville, Portland, Seattle, Chicago and Philadelphia.
Jim Wilson, founder of Phantom Billstickers, says “Some of the most beautiful, striking and intuitive poetry in the world has been created by Kiwis. Phantom Billstickers feels a responsibility to help New Zealand artists of all types to be heard at home and abroad, so we came up with the idea of the Poetry Posters. A different set of posters is rolled-out nationally each 4-6 weeks, and each poster in the set features a different poet’s poem. Simultaneous to the poster roll-outs in New Zealand, we’re making our way around the world, plastering poem posters as we go and exposing the international community to New Zealand and American poetry.”
The first poster was pasted-up in Auckland on 2 June 2009 at an event compeered by New Zealand’s inaugural Poet Laureate, Michele Leggott. This launched the first roll-out of Poetry Posters by NZ poets Tusiata Avia and James Milne (aka Lawrence Arabia) and US poets J.D. McCaleb and Michael White. For just over a month these posters were seen on all Phantom Billstickers’ sites in Whangarei, Auckland, Hamilton, Rotorua, New Plymouth, Gisborne, Napier, Palmerston North, Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch, Dunedin and Invercargill.
A second roll-out, this time launching in Wellington, began on 22 July and featured poetry by NZ poets Bill Direen, David Eggleton, Michele Leggott, Otis Mace and Frankie McMillan and US poet Josie McQuail.
The third roll-out launched in Christchurch on Janet Frame’s birthday on 28 August and featured, as well as a poster of Frame’s poem “The End”, poems by an all NZ line-up: Ben Brown, Hilaire Campbell, Geoff Cochrane, Rhian Gallagher, Gary McCormick, Campbell McKay, Pablo Nova, Jackie Steincamp and Nicholas Thomas.
The fourth New Zealand roll-out launches in Dunedin at 12pm on Monday 16 November at 468 George Street (by Obelisk), with Michele Leggott officiating. The featured NZ poets are Sandra Bell, Jay Clarkson, Sam Hunt and Brian Turner, while the American poets are Robert Pinsky (Massachusetts), Marcie Sims (Washington), and Joe Treceno (New York City).
Wilson says he’s delighted to be launching the latest selection of poem posters in Dunedin, under the gaze of Robbie Burns’ statue. “Dunedin is a real hotbed of creativity,” he says, “and we’re certainly featuring an interesting selection of poets in this roll-out. Alongside some of New Zealand’s best, we’re honoured to have American poet Robert Pinsky submitting his poem “Samurai Song”. Pinsky is one of the foremost poets in the US – aside from being a prolific writer and the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and fellowships, from 1997 to 2000 he was the US Poet Laureate, and he currently teaches at Boston University and is poetry editor for Slate.”
* Phantom Billstickers has been giving New Zealand a good pasting for 27 years. Jim Wilson started the company in 1982 and has the rights to the leading poster sites in the country.