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Poem display takes a mile to read

One of the 11 banners now hanging in Old North St. Louis (KWMU photo)

By Tom Weber, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – A new public art display in north St. Louis will let people read poetry on buildings, but they'll have to work for it.

It's called "Word Up" because the words to a Langston Hughes poem are up on buildings in Old North St. Louis.

But they're on 11 banners spread around a mile-long loop in the neighborhood, so you'll have to take a walk or bike ride to read the whole thing.

The project is the brainchild of South City resident Maddie Earnest. "I was daydreaming on my front porch; I was thinking about words," Earnest explains. "I was thinking about what would it be like if I put a banner on my house with one word on it? Then I started thinking oooh, what if I did a whole poem?

"And I just changed it out every day and then I thought 'what if we put this around the whole city?'"

Earnest says she chose Old North St. Louis because it's historic and "up and coming," but also because bikers on the Riverfront Trail can access the neighbhorhood easily.

The banners will be up through July.


by Langston Hughes

The earth-meaning
Like the sky-meaning
Was fulfilled.

We got up
And went to the river,
Touched silver water,
Laughed and bathed
In the sunshine.

Became a bright ball of light
For us to play with,
A yellow curtain,
A velvet screen.

The moon,
Like an old grandmother,
Blessed us with a kiss
And sleep
Took us both in


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