Versifying his concern for the endangered aesthetic experience of the American driver, the poet Ogden Nash once famously wrote: “I think that I shall never see / a billboard lovely as a tree. Perhaps, unless the billboards fall / I’ll never see a tree at all.” Well Nash never laid eyes on this beauty in Syracuse, welcoming poet Richard Blanco to town. There are close to a million billboards in America, but perhaps just this one featuring a poet (excepting the occasional ad for a new Leonard Cohen album). The Syracuse sign won’t get mistaken for a Pixar creation, but there it is, big as a cloud at roadside: “Join Inaugural Poet Richard Blanco.” And you can still see the trees, Nash would be happy to know. Blanco, who in his most recent book describes overcoming long odds to find himself reading at Barack Obama’s second inauguration, described his joy upon seeing the sign with customary generosity, selflessness, and wonder.
The poet wrote this on Facebook: “Practically impossible to post this without seeming a bit self-aggrandizing. But honestly, it just thrills me—not because it’s my 14-foot face up there, but because it’s POETRY’s face up there. Could it be possible: a world someday filled with billboards for poets, painters, sculptors, and writers? A world where ART holds the center of our society and education, instead of being passed over?”