Re: Poetry Boxes

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David Cooke

Sep 1, 2010, 5:49:06 PM9/1/10
Hello all,
    I don't know where we are in the process but it sounds like the buzz is in full swing.  In order to line up funding for the site/app I figure we need a hard and fast game plan and people to spear head each task.  Now I have done nothing like this before so I am throwing in my ideas to see what sticks.  Please edit, contribute, laugh, snicker, or rearrange any of the attached roughed out plan.
In addition to this roughed out plan I have been in contact with RACC for grant possibilities and Peter Shaver of Sound Advice and Northwest Lawyers and Artists for advice around copyright and permissions.  More to come.
David Cooke

From: Laurence Cotton <>
Sent: Sun, August 1, 2010 7:38:19 PM
Subject: Re: Poetry Boxes

Hi Tony,

I understand that Joe from the Oregonian enjoyed a good visit and chat with you. I also understand that of course you are now back in town. Let's connect. I would like to walk up to see your poetry box and the view.

All best,

Laurence Cotton
Writer/Interpretive Planner
3564 NE Knott St.
Portland, OR 97212
(503) 349-7636

David Cooke

Sep 1, 2010, 6:01:32 PM9/1/10
And the rough plan...

From: David Cooke <>
Sent: Wed, September 1, 2010 2:49:06 PM
Subject: Re: Poetry Boxes
Poetry Post Site.doc

Matt Blair

Sep 1, 2010, 6:24:04 PM9/1/10
Hi David and everybody,

Thanks for sending this.

It's been kind of a crazy summer for me, and I wish I'd done a better
job of keeping you all informed about our work on the poetry box

I don't have time for a full update at the moment but I'll write more
later. (Sue's out of town, and will be back in the middle of next

Here's the brief version:

* The first version of the iPhone app is about 85% complete, and will
hopefully be available in the App Store by mid-September. (See the
attached screenshot.)
* I've built out the infrastructure for the website (database, etc.)
and we plan to launch the initial version of that by the time Apple
approves and releases the app. (Because we are working on this in our
free time, the schedule may drift a bit, but we're close.)
* We have lots of ideas for the future, and I'm very eager to explore
ways we can build a community around this to keep the momentum going,
and partner with other organizations to make sure it is sustainable.
And replicable: we've been designing it with the idea that other
cities could implement their own poetry box projects.

I look forward to reading your document.

I have to head off to a meeting now, but I'll write more this evening.



John Milliken

Sep 1, 2010, 6:36:49 PM9/1/10

I am 'booked' this week.  However, I will set aside some time next week to list and send you all the pole locations I have built/installed in Portland.  My thought there is that at some point walking tours in each of the neighborhoods (NE Irvington, Grant High, Alameda area, SE Mount Tabor, SE Milwaukee area, a couple in SW Portland, Arbor School and Marylhurst U.) might be interesting.

On a mercenary note - if you folks are OK with it and as I enjoy building/installing these - I could stand a 'hey if you want one, contact this guy' plug.

Attached is a detail shot of the last one for a house in NW Portland. 

"El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz"' (respect for the rights of others is peace )
-Benito Juarez

> Date: Wed, 1 Sep 2010 15:24:04 -0700
> Subject: Re: Poetry Boxes
> From:
> To:

David Cooke

Sep 1, 2010, 6:37:35 PM9/1/10
WOW, that is exactly what I envisioned!  I probably didn't articulate but definitely what I had in mind.  Tell me when I can start blabbing to the public about it.  Looks like Matt has a huge amount of the heavy lifting.  If there is anything you need from me just holler.
David Cooke

From: Matt Blair <>
Sent: Wed, September 1, 2010 3:24:04 PM
Subject: Re: Poetry Boxes

David Cooke

Sep 1, 2010, 6:46:10 PM9/1/10
Fantastic post, John.  
I have used the hollow cedar posts for illuminated posts, capped with glass fence post caps.  It is a really cool effect.  I purchased the supplies at D and V lumber.

From: John Milliken <>
Sent: Wed, September 1, 2010 3:36:49 PM
Subject: RE: Poetry Boxes

Matt Blair

Sep 2, 2010, 5:39:12 PM9/2/10
Wow, John, that'd be fantastic to have some listed in each of those
areas. Sending a list by next week sometime is fine.

We're planning to add walking tours at some point in the future.

I've mentioned to Sue several times that I'd like to have something on
the about page of the app (and also on the web site) that answers the
question "How do I set up a poetry box?" and I think it would be great
to feature your work. I'm always happy to direct people towards local


Matt Blair

Sep 2, 2010, 7:13:20 PM9/2/10
Hello again, everybody,

I started writing this last night, but my brain was just too tired, so
I had to finish it up this afternoon.

There are a lot of details to go over, and my head is kind of swimming
just figuring out where to start, and not overwhelm you all. It would
be great to set up a meeting at some point (or a conference call, but
that's not as much fun) to discuss all this as a group together.

As I mentioned yesterday, I've been developing an iPhone app. Based on
its current testing status, it could be ready for submission to the
App Store as early as next week, and hopefully, if the Apple Review
Team smiles on us, it could be available to any iPhone users to
download by the middle of the month.

As part of building that app, I've also built the infrastructure of a
website, including a database and an API. My jargon alarm just went
off, so I'll explain that an API is a way to share with and receive
data from a lot of different systems. We can use it to build a central
list of poetry boxes, photos, walks, etc. which can support various
web sites, mobile devices, neighborhood organizations, etc.

I realize not everyone has an iPhone handy, and I'd like the audience
for this to be as broad as possible, which is why I took this
approach. Other designers and developers can build apps for Android,
Palm, Blackberry, or pretty much any platform on top of it. The goal
is re-use.

Sue and I plan to design a relatively simple web site, also for a
mid-September launch. As part of that, we'll probably design a mobile
version of the website, so the information and possibly maps will be
available across a variety of mobile devices at that time. It may not
be beautiful on all of them, but availability is a start.

I'm a big fan of iterative design, and I've been rushing the schedule
a bit because I want to get something out there into people's hands,
to make it visual and interactive, and then we can incrementally
improve from there. Rapidly, I hope.

Here is what I'm fairly confident will be in the initial release:

* display a map of poetry boxes, near current location (or in
default location, for demo purposes)
* tap a box for details about it
* add a box by address or based on current location
* take a photo when adding a box
* review process for submitted boxes, before they become public
* add comments to boxes (not yet implemented, but I think it's an
easy one compared to other features)

Sue also has a graphic design company in mind that may help us
beautify the first versions.

We've been brainstorming and have come up with quite a few
possibilities for future versions, including sorting boxes by
neighborhood and genre, creating and sharing walks, highlighting local
coffeeshops and cafés along the way, etc. It would be great to find
community partners and supporters. At the moment, Sue and I are
donating our time, and I'm donating web hosting. That's sustainable
through our first release or two. Beyond that, we need to do some
long-range thinking and planning.

David, I'm going to have to sit down with your list and compare it to
some of our notes and figure out how it all fits together. After a
quick read and think, I know we've discussed quite a few of the items
on your list at some point, but there are others we haven't addressed
yet. I appreciate the effort, and can assure you: there won't be any
snickering! All ideas are welcome.

Just to touch on a few points:

* Everything submitted via the web, the app or any third party
provider will go in a moderation queue, to be reviewed before it
becomes part of the published list. This moderation system is mostly
complete, and the image with the addresses I sent yesterday is a
screen shot of what it looks like. (Dowdy and utilitarian, but it

* We need to think about some of the intellectual property issues. For
example, I think we should consider all uploaded photos to be under a
Creative Commons license. (I'll have more details on this in a future

* We haven't planned to put any actual poetry up on the site or in the
app yet, for several reasons. The main one in my mind is that I think
this project should get people out walking their neighborhoods and
interacting with each other. The screen is not the destination, but if
there is poetry on the screen, people might be tempted to linger there
and never get out in the fresh air.

Another reason is that posting copyrighted poetry online is such a
legal mine field. If you are interested in such things, I'd point you
to the Poetry in New Media Project
( --
specifically the PDF on that page, which kept me occupied/entertained
all the way from Tampa to Denver on a recent trip.

There are some legal questions and concerns on the horizon related to
some of the ideas planned for the future, so it'd be good to start the

* Great list of benefits. We should build on this. That's a good
starter outline for the website, too.

* I'm eager to discuss ways to build buzz and community around this.

I'll leave it there for now, and plan to update you all sometime next
week, maybe after Sue's back and we've had a chance to chat. Feedback
and thoughts are welcome.

Have a great long weekend,



John, I noticed you were emailing from an iPad. The first version of
the the app I'm creating will run on the iPad, but in the
compatibility mode with the 2x button to make it full-screen, like
other iPhone-targeted apps. I might add an true iPad version later,
we'll see how things go. We thought people were more likely to wander
their neighborhoods with phones than iPads, at least for now.

John Milliken

Sep 22, 2010, 11:20:52 PM9/22/10
Here are a couple of links to Blue Begonia Press and Jim Bodeen; the man who inspired me to put up poles.  Enjoy!

"El respeto al derecho ajeno es la paz"' (respect for the rights of others is peace )
-Benito Juarez

> Date: Thu, 2 Sep 2010 14:39:12 -0700

Matt Blair

Sep 28, 2010, 11:05:56 AM9/28/10
Thanks for sending these, John. I love the slightly tattered look of
these. Do any of you leave poems out in the weather locally?

I watched part of one of the other videos listed, and the way he hangs
them completely exposed reminds me of a Japanese tradition. They buy
astrological readings at the shrines, and, if they don't like the
prediction, tie them to cords on the grounds of the shrines. At just
about any shine, there are hundreds of these tiny, neatly-knotted
misfortunes, slowly decaying in the wind and rain. The poetry post is
certainly a more positive approach!


Tony Pfannenstiel

Sep 28, 2010, 1:59:16 PM9/28/10
What an interesting story,Matt, about "misguided fortunes" in Japan. I
would like to learn more about that. Will also visit the websites Jonn
included. MattI I never did respond to your poetry queries several
weeks ago. In my poetry box I include some of my own poems and the
poems of local Portland poets. Then I don't have to fuss about
copyright hassles. I want to include a poem for example by David
Cooke. He has some top notch verse. Anyway we left San Francisco
several days ago and are traveling north up the coast all the way to
Astoria then cross the big bridge to the Washington side then up north
almost to the point of the Long Beach peninsula to our beach cabin.
Please keep me posted forr our meeting. When is it?

Regards, Tony
(sent from iPhone)

Matt Blair

Sep 29, 2010, 2:16:26 PM9/29/10
I have October 16th at 1pm on my calendar, for a meeting and/or poetry
walk. How does that sound to everyone?

I need to find some pictures of the fortunes at the shrines in Japan.
I bought one (they cost about $1) at a friend's urging one time, and
asked three different Japanese friends to interpret it. All three had
a look of horror on their face, and would not tell me what it said,
only that under no circumstances should I take it with me beyond the
grounds of the shrine. It seems like about 90% of the fortunes sold
this way are some kind of bad luck. Why does this remain a profitable
business for the shrines? I'll leave it to the anthropologists to sort
that one out.

Have a great trip, Tony.


Tony Pfannenstiel

Sep 29, 2010, 2:53:11 PM9/29/10
Ok. It's on my calendar too. Where shall we meet? Fascinating about
the profitability of bad fortune. Kind of a reverse take on the addage
"Every success of my friends diminishes me bit by bit.". Somewhere in
your story, Matt, there lies a poem. Arrived at our beach cabin
yesterday. Sunny here. Will pick porcini and matsurske mushrooms and
then ride horses on the beach the rest of the day. What a beautiful

Regards, Tony
(sent from iPhone)

On Sep 29, 2010, at 11:16 AM, Matt Blair <>

Matt Blair

Sep 29, 2010, 4:05:27 PM9/29/10
We haven't decided on a location yet. I know there are quite a few
poetry boxes up near the Alameda ridge. Any other suggestions? As we
get closer, maybe we can decide if we want to do a walk, or meet
indoors if the weather is particularly nasty.

I also meant to mention that if any of you are going to Wordstock on
Saturday, October 9, I'll be at the Write Around Portland booth from
9:30 - 12, and would be happy to meet with anyone around in the noon
hour. (I'm not sure how long I'll stick around after that, but email
or call me at 503-757-1764 if you're interested.)

Sounds like a fantastic way to spend an afternoon, Tony. Enjoy it!


David Cooke

Sep 30, 2010, 9:16:52 PM9/30/10
I am game for any where

David Cooke
The Lawn Guy

PO Box 1552
Lake Oswego OR 97035

(503) 887-8238

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