~ How Pedestrian ~

Interview with “How Pedestrian” curator Katherine Leyton

Nic S. at Voice Alpha interviews Katherine Leyton, who stops people on the street and gets them to read poems on camera for her site How Pedestrian.

The visual element of the project, of course, was the main idea. I wanted to bring poetry to people in pubs and streets and taxis around Toronto, capture it on video and post it online. However, the visual aspect of a poem itself is also very important, and I think to fully absorb a poem you need to actually read it; this is why I decided to post the work next to the video. I really wanted the viewer be able to read along.

One of the most surprising results of the project so far has been the overwhelmingly positive public response.

The enthusiasm with which pedestrians agree to read for me is astonishing. I would say that out of every ten people I ask to read a poem, nine say yes. When I started, I never expected a 90% response rate, which speaks of my own misperceptions about the way the Canadian public views poetry. People are willing and curious, they just might not be inspired to seek it out on their own – they need a push. Many of my readers want to discuss the poem or poet with me after they read, and almost all are fascinated by the project.

Read more.

Random strangers reading poems on camera

Check out How Pedestrian, the latest addition to the Moving Poems linkroll. As described in a recent article in the Toronto National Post, the site’s curator and videographer, Toronto poet Katherine Leyton, stops people at random and asks them to recite a poem on camera. Most of the time, they agree.

“Poetry has such a bad rap,” Leyton says. “People will tell me about how they had to analyze Robert Frost poems in high school, and how boring it was, but poetry doesn’t have to be like that.” She’s hoping her blog will change the public’s perceptions about poetry and make it more accessible to those who might otherwise shy away from it.

Most of the participants read the poem Leyton provides only moments before they recite it, and while in some videos this is obvious, in others, the readers recite with such feeling and conviction that it’s hard not to think it’s rehearsed. “Good poetry should always work first on a gut level — it should communicate with you intuitively,” Leyton explains. “I think that for most poets, that’s the aim.”

As a proof-of-concept, the site is brilliant, and with Leyton’s short but substantive blurbs about each featured poet, I should think How Pedestrian could really come in handy in the classroom.