Bandit signs, the small, corrugated plastic advertisements planted with wire stakes into the ground or stapled onto wooden power poles at edges of roadways and the corners of busy city intersections, normally feature business promotions underscored by a sense of urgency (LOSE 30 POUNDS IN 30 DAYS!!!, GET CASH NOW!!!). They are universally recognized, read by virtually everyone who glances at them, and are so common that they need no introduction to the average passerby. What an ideal place for poetry.
Using the brief format of traditional haiku—three lines of five/seven/five syllables—John Morse transforms the familiar bandit sign into a delivery device for poetic snapshots of the urban condition presented and consumed within the brief seconds of stop and go traffic. Five hundred 12″ x 18″ signs, in editions of 50 that each feature one of 10 different haiku (eight in English, two in Spanish) will appear throughout Atlanta under the auspices of Flux Projects, the organization that supports artists in creating innovative temporary public art throughout the city.
Well-traveled roadways in Atlanta, including: Boulevard, Buford Highway, Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Memorial Drive, Moreland Avenue/Briarcliff Road, Glenwood Avenue, Edgewood Avenue, North Avenue and Roswell Road. You can see an Google map of where all the signs are located and find out more about the project at this link.
Traditional haiku relies upon a seasonal reference (kigo), with a mention, perhaps obliquely, to the season in which the haiku is written. In its opening lines, Roadside Haiku also offers a kigo of sorts, with ostensible nods to the defining consumerist allure of a bandit sign: making money, losing weight, selling old gold, yard sales, etc. Within the 17 syllables, however, the Roadside Haiku reveals an entirely different message, offering compact observations and commentary on modern life.