Arts & CultureSixth AvenueVillage Alliance

The Inauguration of the Poetry Jukebox

On October 23, the Village Alliance inaugurated the Poetry Jukebox at the Ruth Wittenburg Triangle, in the honorable presence of Hynek Kmoní?ek, Czech RepublicAmbassador to the United States, and the artist and creator of the Poetry Jukebox, Ond?ej Kobza.

Linking the historic Bohemian lands and traditions of Europe and America, the Poetry Jukebox is the latest commissioned piece as part of the Village Alliance public art program.   

Now rather than the humdrum of traffic, you will hear beautiful poetry at the Ruth Wittenburg Triangle. The Poetry Jukebox plays twenty poems and spoken words featuring Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Jane Jacobs among others. Originally conceived by the Czech project Piána na ulici (Pianos on the Street) founded by coffee house owner Ond?ej Kobza, there are now poetry jukeboxes in cities across the world including Prague, Kiev, London, Venice, Brussels and Belfast.

While the jukebox design may be striking, its concept is remarkably simple. You walk by, you press a button, and you hear a poem. For the technically curious, the jukebox comes together from three separate steel parts, with power drawn from an internal battery pack. The MP3 audio files are original recordings the featured poets reading their work. Some recordings are adapted to recreate the sound quality of megaphones, gramophones, or a speaking-trumpet, to better suit the listening experience in a busy urban environment.

At the inauguration, there were remarks by Ambassador Kmoní?ek, artist Ond?ej Kobza, and Czech Tourism representative Jiri Dužár, about the importance of freely sharing poetry and literature in public spaces, and why listening to the original voices of poets is one of the most beautiful and inspiring experiences a city can offer. Following the remarks there were stirring, operatic style readings of poetry.

Ond?ej Kobza has carefully ensured each jukebox he has installed around the world reflects the literary legacy of its surroundings. So it’s only natural the Poetry Jukebox at the Ruth Wittenburg Triangle features some of the Village’s greatest writers including Jack Kerouac, Emma Lazarus, Allen Ginsberg, Edna St. Vincent Millay, and many others. Scroll down for the full list of featured authors and poems. View photos from the inaugauration here.

The Poetry Jukebox is at the Ruth Wittenburg Triangle until early 2019, made possible through a partnership with the Village AllianceNew York City Department of Transportation (DOT), and Czech Tourism.

For further information about this and the Village Alliance Public Art Program, call (212) 777-2173.

The jukebox features the following authors and their poems –

Edna St. Vincent Millay                 Love is Not All

Sara Teasdale                                   Barter

Denise Levertov                               The Pilots

Grace Paley                                       Mother

James Baldwin                                 Sonny Blues

Edgar Allan Poe                               The Raven

Allen Ginsberg                                 Howl

Jack Kerouac                                    The Beat Generation

Gary Snyder                                      Turtle Island

Diane di Prima                                  Ave

Anne Waldman                                 Pressure

Amiri Baraka                                     Our Nation Is Like Ourselves

Gregory Corso                                   Mariagge

Lawrence Ferlinghetti                     Evil

Emma Lazarus                                  The New Colossus

Wystan Hugh Auden                       Tell me the Truth About Love

Mark Twain                                       The Voice of Mark Twain

Hart Crane                                         The Brooklyn Bridge

Jane Jacobs                                       Neighborhoods in Action

Frank O'Hara                                     Lana Turner has collapsed

The Inauguration of the Poetry Jukebox

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