If You Build It (for $22 Mil), They’d Better Come

Posted: August 15, 2011 in Misc
Tags: ,

Poety HQ Exterior       It’s hard to defend a $21.5 million price tag attached to anything regarding poetry, especially when poetry can be considered one of the most inexpensive forms of art out there (beaten only by a cappella song and most methods of dance). Forsaking memorization, poems can be as easily written on bar napkins, receipts, or whatever will accept the lead/ink/transmuted mind-blood of those who write them as they can be punched into pretentious iDevices and their predecessors. While I am still skeptical of the cost, I have to admit I was blown away by the Poetry Foundation’s new digs at 61 W. Superior in Chicago, IL.

When you see the standard picture of Poetry HQ’s (cause that’s what all the cool kids are calling it) exterior, it looks like a plain building with some unique use of window placement and glass. When approached, however, the architecture reveals several cutouts and layers of walls within walls. Aside from being able to be viewed as a metaphor for poetry itself, the achitecture produces a maze-like effect. There are many nooks and crannies fit for an epic game of hide-and-go-seek or tag. Even if found, one player would have a heck of a time getting to the other in order to tag him/her. In this sense, I felt like a kid again while exploring the building.  I took every opportunity to squeeze between whatever walls I could, checking out multiple vantages and enjoying the odd looks of people walking by, who were probably wondering why someone was walking inside a wall. To me, the Poetry Foundation definitely got their money’s worth for this effect alone.

Wallflower      There is much more to Poetry HQ than aesthetics of course. As a building, Poetry HQ does what any building should do: protect its contents. To that effect, what is being protected includes a massive library that will comprise 30,000+ volumes of poetry (some exceptionally rare) collected throughout Poetry’s (the magazine) history. Ensuring poetry is accessible for future generations is, as MasterCard and Madison Ave. ad execs will tell you, priceless.  $21.5 million priceless?  Well, the Poetry Foundation thinks so. The building, aside from looking awesome and effectively (hopefully) preserving select volumes of verse for the ages, also hosts a room built especially for readings. When I visited, the room was still under construction. The ceiling had inlaid lights as well as spotlights, and the acoustics (of course I recited a short poem) were great. Little touches – the slightly hidden garden, famous poet portraiture, and screen-printed quotes on walls (which reminded me of home) – are perfect accents to a building which I cannot wait to revisit in order to take full advantage of all it will be offering.

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