Haikus on marquee. Brooklyn films inspire street art. See it in Park Slope.
Nitehawk Cinema owners handed the old Pavilion Theater’s marquee to a band of local artists who are using the display to showcase haikus inspired by films set in Kings County. And while the illuminated, wrap-around sign may have been made to advertise movie showings, it could not be more perfect for the Japanese short-form poetry, according to the bards.
“The marquee itself is such an interesting canvas, in that there’s enough room for a title, a blank space, and three lines of poetry,” said Drew Pisarra, who started the project with poet Molly Gross. “It’s practically built for haikus.”
The poetic pair, who operate under the moniker Saint Flashlight, sought out public spaces where they could bring their art to the masses and originally approached the nearby Oak Park Pharmacy at 205 Prospect Park West about using its façade. But that plan fell through, however, and when it did, the artists did a literal 180 and saw the perfect canvas staring them in the face, according to Pisarra.
“We turned around and there was the movie theater,” he said.
The owners of Williamsburg’s Nitehawk Cinema, who leased the historic Pavilion Theater at 188 Prospect Park West last year, were only too happy to offer their signage for passers-by’s cultural enrichment, Gross said, although the marquee will be reclaimed to display film showings when the venue reopens sometime next winter.
“Nitehawk’s owners have been amazing,” Gross said. “They get what we want to do, and have been very supportive.”
The proprietors suggested the artists focus their poems on Brooklyn-based films, leading Gross to select “A Tree Grows in Brooklyn,” “Saturday Night Fever,” and Spike Lee’s “She’s Gotta Have It” for the first round of haikus, which will emblazon the marquee until the end of the month, when three new poems will debut.
Gross penned the piece about Lee’s flick, while Park Slope poet Diane Mehta and Williamsburg bard Karen Hudes were tapped to distill the others into
17 perfect syllables.
And though the haikus fit flawlessly on the Pavilion’s marquee, Pisarra said the theater does not always have the letters needed to produce all of the poems, which requires some literary logistics to ensure there are enough As, Bs, and Cs.
“Your haiku may be great, but if we’re short on Ys, maybe your poem gets bumped to the next month, and we put in the poem that we have the letters for,” he said.