Times Square will soon be home to a 20-foot tower covered in a cascade of mountain laurel, a species of flowering plant.
Created by Cuban-born artist Raúl Cordero, this installation, titled THE POEM, is designed to tame the sensory overload one experiences when in Times Square. Inside the structure you’ll find an illuminated haiku paired with an open patch of sky overhead—an unexpected oasis providing viewers with a brief sense of relief from the contrasting hustle and bustle of the surrounding area.
Cordero is known for his large blurry paintings featuring dotted texts, and this haiku, created specifically for this installation by poet and educator Barry Schwabsky, is written with glowing blacklight bulbs attached to the installation’s interior. This is a play on Cordero’s interest in the effects of the digital age on the human mind and our urge to multitask rather than focusing, as it forces viewers to linger for a few seconds in order to read the message.
THE POEM is inspired by fellow Cuban and poet Reinaldo Arenas, an exile of the Cuban government who battled AIDS, unfortunately leading to his death by suicide in 1990. As a child Arenas would sit in a tree writing poems, thus inspiring the installation’s height and its connection to nature. In Arenas’ final years he lived only two blocks away from THE POEM’S location.
Along with this installation LaTasha Nevada Diggs, Paolo Javier, Barry Schwabsky, and PEN America will curate evenings of poetry readings and live performances celebrating THE POEM and local poets.
Cordero says, “It’s difficult to create meaningful art for people in an era when their attention is scattered across so many mediums and technologies simultaneously. THE POEM seeks to stop time, reminding us that humans also have the capacity to invest in one thing at a time […] and read a haiku, even when standing in the center of Times Square.”
THE POEM will be on display at the Times Square Plaza April 8th through May 4th.