Portland, Oregon

The city was of interest to me from all I’ve read, and a  quick trip last weekend did not disappoint. Although I was there on personal visits, to see old friends and my newly adult son, I caught enough of the scene to understand why it is so appealing to people interested in redesigning cities and communities. 

The two design innovations I was able to experience first-hand were  traffic calming  and poetry poles. The traffic calming road impediments were round or rounded shapes of plants and poured concrete or stone that sat in the middle of an intersection. They seemed like a nuisance to a driver but they probably did slow us down, and they were designed in some sense and could be appreciated as breaks in the tedium of asphalt and perhaps they slowed some people down. An alternative form was of a gentle rises in the road, like a stretched-out speedbump. Both kinds were announced with signs. The rises–a vertical change rather than a horizontal one seemed slightly more effective to me. My town would no doubt reject both forms as creating problems for snowplows. 

But the poetry poles, of which there were two in the neighborhood I visited, might have a future here. Easily mistaken at first for a real estate notice, a poetry pole holds one of those  plastic, rainproof boxes but contains a poem instead of a pitch. The pole says “poetry” in hand-carved letters and a little notice on the box encourages passersby to take a poem. If I did it I think I would start with Lord Byron’s “So We’ll Go No More A-Roving”–

poetry pole

poetry pole

 So we’ll go no more a-roving,
So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving
And the moon be still as bright.  

For the sword outwears its sheath
And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
And the day returns too soon,
Yet we’ll go no more a-roving
By the light of the moon.

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