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Madrid's zebra crossings will be inscribed with local poetry

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A community project organised by Madrid’s city council will see the city’s streets painted with lines of poetry penned by local residents.

This October, over 1,000 zebra crossings spread over the city’s 21 districts will be brightened by lines of poetry painted in striking white letters. The project, named Versos al Paso, which translates to ‘verses to the step’, is a local initiative aiming to symbolise the importance of poetry while simultaneously encouraging pedestrians to become more aware of their surroundings.

In total, Madrid’s pedestrian crossings will be inscribed with 1,1000 poems, 700 composed by Madrid’s residents and a further 400 sourced from local poets.

Madrid’s city council is working in collaboration with Boa Mistura, a group of artists who display their work in accessible public spaces. Using poetry written by local residents, Versos al Paso will aim to give the population a chance to reignite Madrid’s poetry scene.

In a technology-ridden world, morning walks through the city have slowly morphed into a chance to check any pending Facebook notifications, muting the roar of car engines and the chatter of civilians and leaving the excitement and beauty of the surrounding streets unnoticed. To combat this, Versos al Paso acts as a bold reminder of life beyond technology, helping pedestrians to reconnect with their surroundings and making everyday journeys more meaningful.

Other than providing inspirational poetry, the verses on the zebra crossings will act as a welcome alternative to smartphones and promote emotional wellbeing.

The project’s creators have said: “In our philosophical and literary tradition, walking, and especially idle walking, is a poetic act in itself. Walking is good for physical health, but also for mental health.”

Aspiring poets and creatives have until Friday 7th September to submit original verses of poetry to the website to be in with a chance of having their work shared on Madrid’s streets. Entries can be submitted in any language, although a separate translation into Spanish is required. Submissions will then be judged by a committee of literary industry experts. 

With 2017 being the 100th anniversary of the birth of Gloria Fuertes and the 50th anniversary of the death of León Felipe, Spain’s rich poetic history will be given a chance to be continued through this project.

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