Guerrilla Haiku Movement to adorn Milwaukee with poetry
Caley Vickerman wanted to create events that celebrate health and humanity. So a couple of years ago, she came up with idea to start a movement called the Guerrilla Haiku Movement, an Internet-organized series of happening that gets groups of people in multiple cities to meet up and chalk sidewalks with short poems.
"I'm always thinking of some sort of weird idea," says Vickerman.
Vickerman, a professional actor and education from Minneapolis currently living in New Jersey, started writing haiku – which are three-line, Japanese poems that are often exactly 17 syllables longs – in sixth grade. She went on to make up haiku bar games as an adult.
"I would write one line and then hand it off to a stranger to see if they would get it and write another line. People almost always got into it, and I thought about how I could make this larger," she says.
Vickerman's goal for The Guerrilla Haiku Movement is to take it to 10 cities in 2011. So far, the event has taken place in five: Manhattan, San Francisco, Kingston (New York), New York City and Chicago. It will launch in Milwaukee on Saturday, Sept. 17 at Veteran's Park at 2 p.m. (Madison, Minneapolis and Jersey City are scheduled for this fall.)
Ten Milwaukee neighborhoods will be targeted, including Downtown, Walker's Point, Third Ward, Riverwest, Shorewood, East Side, Brady Street and in or around the zoo. (Vickerman is still working out the details.)
"It's interesting to see how each city responds to the project. Each city is different," she says.
People of all ages are invited to meet in the park, and then Vickerman will divide them into small groups, assign them a neighborhood and give them a bucket of chalk. The people will then go to the neighborhood to embark on a scavenger hunt that will lead them to various areas with chalk-friendly spaces.
The small groups are asked to write as many haiku as they care to without defacing public property, and to include as many passersby as possible. Vickerman says about 20 people usually show up at the scheduled location to kick off the project, but in the end, attract hundreds of others to take part spontaneously.
"The goal is to get people to interact with people. To step outside their comfort zones," says Vickerman, who travels around by car during the event, photographing the progress. She later uploads the photos to her website.
Vickerman says people don't always stick to the three-lines, 17-syllable haiku, but that's the form she suggests.
"The 5-7-5 (syllables per line for each haiku) is kind of our credo," she says. "Haiku is an awesome utensil. And it creates beautiful moments that are just really amazing and meaningful."
Vickerman is funding the project completely on her own. She worked as an actor for a Shakespeare company in Waterville Valley, N.H., for most of the summer to save up enough money to take the project on the road. A friend, who moved to New York, loaned her a car.
"Other than gas, there's not much to fund. It's a labor of love and chalk is cheap," she says.
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