Poetry by the River

From pit people to daffodils, the sure-fire signs of Spring have finally emerged and taken up usual residence in Harvard’s environs of higher learning.

But the day-glow green grass in the yard isn’t the only sign of outside forces working to promote spring. An outcropping of poems—photocopied, laminated and mounted on wooden posts—have sprouted along the banks of the Charles.

Strategically located at eye-level near benches on the heavily trafficked band of river between the Eliot Bridge and the Weeks Footbridge, the signs bear contextually apropos poems, dealing with themes such as spring and ducks, and written by poets such as Horace, Rumi, and Sylvia Plath.

But who took the time and energy to plant these verses in the ground?

The project, dubbed the creative moniker of “Spring, Poetry, and the Charles”, was coordinated by Leverett House Tutors and members of the Leverett Arts Society Lois Hetland and Yonatan Grad.

One Harvard undergrad, savoring the sun with a canine friend and a Frisbee, liked the signs despite the fact they pose something of an obstacle. “I have to make sure the dog doesn’t run into them,” says Bridie Mee, ’04. “I think they’re sweet,” she adds. Throwing her arms into the air like blossoming petals, she says, “It’d be nice if they were different colors.”

Gail Gustafson, of Harvard Design School, found the Thomas Hardy poem conveniently located adjacent to her bench an agreeable surprise. “I didn’t know what it was—I thought it was a sign for fertilizer or something,” she says, gazing at the scullers gawkily rowing up the river. “I enjoyed reading it.”

But not all Charles River regulars share such adulation for the poetry. “It’s kind of mixed feelings,” says Doug Aley, Harvard Business School ’05, describing his reaction. “On the one hand I like just the plain river and the grass out there, but on the other hand it’s nice to see some art out there.”

The poems seem to be a general success, even with those who can’t understand them. “Poems…good!” smiles a French couple enthusiastically.