Poetry Billboard Project

Added on by Scott Cunningham.

Miami is a place where people are used to sitting in traffic. The Transportation Institute at Texas A&M consistently ranks the Magic City among the top 15 most congested places in the country, and with the lack of a unified transit authority, there’s no end in sight. So on behalf of our fellow gridlock-relegated residents, O, Miami created Road Sage, a poetry billboard project.

O, Miami has wanted to put poems on billboards since we learned about poet Jeffrey Knapp’s billboard project in South Florida in the late 70s. Knapp is one of O, Miami’s principal inspirations: a poet who, in addition to writing great poems, created innovative public programs that brought poetry to new audiences. Check out these amazing billboards from 1979, which used poems from local students and adult poets alike:

Jeffrey Knapp's poetry billboards from 1979

Jeffrey Knapp's poetry billboards from 1979

Miami Herald coverage of "Road Poems", a project by poet Jeffrey Knapp

Miami Herald coverage of "Road Poems", a project by poet Jeffrey Knapp

Sun-Sentinel coverage of "Road Poems", a 1979 project by Miami poet Jeffrey Knapp

Sun-Sentinel coverage of "Road Poems", a 1979 project by Miami poet Jeffrey Knapp

We’ve always wanted to continue Knapp’s legacy, and after a few apprehensive phone calls to a number on a tattered sign, our billboard project, Road Sage was off the ground.

Choosing the poem was easy. Minnesota poet Todd Boss gave us his short poem, "Flamingos" literally on the spot. On his way back from a humanitarian trip to Haiti, Boss stopped by Miami for a visit and recited "Flamingos" from memory. Sing-songy and substantive, the simple and tropical poem can still be found at 432 NW 79th St. inside of a stark, black-and-white design by Flying Pyramids.

Photo by Gesi Schilling for O, Miami 2014

Photo by Gesi Schilling for O, Miami 2014

Photo by Gesi Schilling for O, Miami 2014

Photo by Gesi Schilling for O, Miami 2014

Photo by Gesi Schilling for O, Miami 2014

Photo by Gesi Schilling for O, Miami 2014

Recently, the project found a second home…on Google maps. Sometime during early May the Google Streetcar went by 79th and snapped a blurry but readable photo of Road Sage. Now part of Miami’s digital as well as physical landscape, "Flamingos" hopefully brings a moment of mental respite and joy to drivers on both paved and pixelated roads.

"Flamingos" as it appears in Google Street View

"Flamingos" as it appears in Google Street View