"John Morse has brought his unique blend of imagery and poetry to the streets of New York City."

NYC Department of Transportation

“Morse uses haiku not to make new American poetry but to make new the ways in which urban signage communicates with the public and to reinvigorate the importance of poetry in the public sphere.”

Ce Rosenow, President, Haiku Society of America



November, 2011 New York

Following John Morse's 2010 Atlanta installation Roadside Haiku, the New York City Department of Transportation commissioned "Curbside Haiku," which launched in late November 2011.

Via image, text and qr code, NYC's DOT has installed over 200 signs in all five boroughs of the city. The signs, attached to light poles and at the entrance to public parking lots, use higly-stylized designs alongside 17-syllable haiku to engage distracted pedestrians and cyclists and make them more sensitive to the need to safely share the city's streets.

To kick off the project, NewYork Commissioner of Transportation Janette Sadik-Khan hosted a Curbside Haiku fundraiser to benefit the city's non-profit Safe Streets Fund at New York's Center for Architecture on November 28.

Press for "Curbside Haiku" included a 3/4 page feature, including five photographs, in section A of the New York Times (written entirely in haiku) with a followup article containing haiku submitted by readers in response to the project, an article in the New York Post (best headline: "City's Going Haiku-Koo!") and the highest rating in New York magazine's weekly "Approval Matrix."

Rachel Maddow named "Curbside Haiku" as the day's "Best New Thing" on her November 30th show and did the entire segment in haiku.

John taped radio spots with Scott Simon for NPR's "Weekend Edition - Saturday" and the BBC World Service's "Newshour" with Claire Bolderson (broadcast to 120 countries around the world), as well as a segment for the "CBS Early Show."

By early December 2011, a Google Search of "Curbside Haiku" yielded 24,000 results. Links for some of the major press items include:

The New York Times, November 29, 2011

The New York Post, November 30, 2011

DesignBloom.com, November 30, 2011

SmartSign Blog, December 9, 2011

NPR Interview with "Weekend Edition Saturday"'s Scott Simon, December 3, 2011

BBC World Service interview (at the 48 minute mark), December 3, 2011

New York Magazine, "Approval Matrix", week of December 12, 2011

CBS Early Show Segment, December 16, 2011


Worst NYC Hot Spot

Cars crossing sidewalk:
Worst New York City hotspot
To run into friends


Too Advserse To Risk

Too averse to risk
To chance the lottery, yet
Steps into traffic


Imagine a World

Imagine a world
Where your every move matters.
Welcome to that world.


Agressive Driver

Aggressive driver.
Aggressive pedestrian.
Two crash test dummies.


Eight Million Swimming

8 million swimming,
The traffic rolling like waves
Watch for undertow.


Cyclist Writes Screenplay

Cyclist writes screenplay
Plot features bike lane drama
How pedestrian


Puerta Del Coche

Puerta del coche
Se abre al ciclista
Un freno duro


A Sudden Car Door

A sudden car door,
Cyclist’s story rewritten.
Fractured narrative


Car Stops Near Bike

Car stops near bike lane
Cyclist entering raffle
Unwanted door prize


She Walks In Beauty

She walks in beauty
Like the night. Maybe that’s why
Drivers can’t see her.


Oncoming Cars Rush

Oncoming cars rush
Each a 3-ton bullet.
And you, flesh and bone.


Coches Ciegos

Coches ciegos
Comunicarse en Braille.

Remate brutal.


John Morse Awarded the 2011 Brendan Gill Prize for Curbside Haiku

Presented by the Municipal Art Society of New York

Brendan Gill Prize


Curbside Haiku Goes Hollywood! (well...France)

The production folks from Audrey Tautou's (Amélie, Divinci Code, Coco Before Chanel) latest film, Chinese Puzzle, the final installment in a Tautoo trilogy based in New York, asked the studio for permission to use Curbside Haiku images that appear in street scenes in their filming. They then asked to create a banner of the street sign images for a scene in the film. Whether the images appear in the film or on the cutting room floor remains to be seen until the final cut. Either way, below is the banner they created and then sent to the studio. Watch for the results on-screen (or not...damn you Hollywood!) when the movie releases in France, October 2013.

Chinese Puzzle Haiku Banner