Berkeley Installs Three Tons of Poetry in the Downtown Arts District

Former National Poet Laureate Robert Hass Chooses 123 Poems for the Berkeley Poetry Walk 

P-Panelcloseup          P-Panelstreetscape

Berkeley, California (Monday, October 20, 2003) – On Monday, October 27, 2003, the City of Berkeley will begin installing the Berkeley Poetry Walk in the sidewalk of the Downtown Arts District on Addison Street.  Over 120 cast-iron poetry panels will be installed along the curbside edge of the sidewalk on Addison Street, between Shattuck and Milvia.  On each 55 lb. panel is a poem selected by Robert Hass.  

Special recognition and thanks goes Mr. Robert Hass for his generous time and dedication to this project.  Mr. Hass is the former US Poet Laureate and a Professor at the University of California at Berkeley.  Bob Hass researched, selected and edited over 120 poems that span the history of Berkeley. Local Architect John Roberts is the original designer of the Addison Streetscape.  Mr. Roberts donated his time to work with Mr. Hass to design the placement of the poems in historical order on the street.  A visitor to the Downtown Arts District will be able to walk down Addison Street and read the poetic voices of Berkeley that span from the Ohlone Indians to present-day poets.  Mr. Hass and Mr. Roberts have donated their services with the poetry as a gift to the community. 

The cast-iron poetry panels were fabricated using a unique blend of materials.  The technical consultant for this project, Scott Donahue, worked with the Civic Arts Commission, staff and the manufacturers to design this special technique.  The poems are silk-screened with a glass porcelain emulsion onto a cast-iron plate.  This plate is then fired in an industrial kiln, which permanently affixes the porcelain text to the iron plate, making a durable surface.  Each panel will patina over time, developing a reddish coat of rust which is designed to compliment the pale yellow hue of text.  Each letter of text is outlined by a durable black emulsion for better clarity and read-ability.  This process of constructing the porcelain text of the panels was performed by Cherokee Porcelain and Steel located in Tennessee.  Berkeley artist David Lance Goines designed the choice of type and the text layout of the poems. 

This project was made possible by a joint effort between private donors and the Measure S Bond Issue for downtown renovations.  The private donors along with the citizens of Berkeley will be recognized on an “Acknowledgments” plaque that will be installed along the poetry walk.  Plans are underway to work with Berkeley’s HeyDay Press to produce a published anthology that documents the poetry selected for this project.

A series of celebrations and openings for the Berkeley Poetry Walk are being planned and will be announced.  The Addison Streetscape is a project of the City of Berkeley, Public Art Program.  This program is a part of the Civic Arts Program in the Office of Economic Development and the Berkeley Civic Arts Commission.