The Poetry Society of America’s Seeing Into Tomorrow features short poems by Richard Wright transformed into large-scale murals, turning Brooklyn streetscapes into sites of inspired language, sparkling wonder, and new connections. Best known for his searing depictions of racial discrimination and violence in books such as Native Son and Black Boy, Wright spent the final 18 months of his life creating his own distinctive versions of haiku, the traditional Japanese verse form. This multi-site installation, designed by artist/designer Stephen Doyle and Doyle Partners, invites residents and visitors to travel through the neighborhoods in and around Downtown Brooklyn, crossing boundaries, making discoveries, and learning to “read” the city in new ways.
Rooted in his experience of suffering and injustice, Wright’s haiku are a defiant act of hope, a crossing into a different cultural tradition, and a vision for a different “tomorrow.” Seeing Into Tomorrow commemorates the achievements of a major Black writer (who lived on Carlton and Myrtle in the 1930s), while also inspiring new ways of seeing and experiencing the district.
“Richard Wright wrote nearly four thousand haiku towards the end of his life. Studying the greatest translations of the Zen-inspired art form, he created work that makes us movingly aware of our connection to the ephemeral beauties of life. His haiku remain some of the finest in the West.”
-Kimiko Hahn, Author
• Willoughby Plaza, Brooklyn (Shake Shack wall)
• Jay Street-MetroTech subway entrance, 395 Jay Street, Brooklyn
• 1 DeKalb Avenue (Fleet Street side of City Point), Brooklyn
• Mark Morris Dance Group (Rockwell Place wall), 3 Lafayette Avenue, Brooklyn
• BRIC Arts Media (Rockwell Place wall), 647 Fulton Street, Brooklyn
• NYCHA Whitman Houses (Four Star Candy Deli) 327 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn
• NYCHA Whitman Houses (Ten Star Deli) 299 Myrtle Avenue, Brooklyn
A map showing all locations can be found here.
Richard Wright (1908-1960)
Born on Rucker’s Plantation, near Roxie, Mississippi, in 1908, Richard Wright moved to Chicago as a young man and worked odd jobs while pursuing his dream of becoming a writer. In 1937, he moved to New York, where he began to publish his work. In 1940, he published Native Son, the story of a young Black man’s descent into poverty, hopelessness, and violence. The first book by a Black author to be selected as the Main Selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club, the novel brought Wright international acclaim. His later books include his memoir Black Boy and the novels The Outsider and The Long Dream. In 1947, Wright emigrated to France, where he became friends with Camus and other writers, and spent much of his time assisting liberation movements in Africa and Asia. While he had written poems throughout his career, Wright devoted the final two years before his death in 1960 to the study of haiku and ultimately wrote more than 4,000 of these 17-syllable poems.
Founded in 1910, the Poetry Society of America places poetry at the crossroads of American life, transforming public spaces into sites for imaginative encounters with poems, and amplifies the voices of poets around issues of common concern.
Learn more about the Downtown Brooklyn + Dumbo Art Fund here.
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