Madrid becomes a poem

[ leer en español]

“Versos al paso” (stepping into verse) is an initiative that brings poetry to pedestrian crossings with traffic lights in the streets of Madrid. Its aim is that, while we walk around our city, poetry goes with us. This project invites us to stop, observe, enjoy the route, reflect and let ourselves be surprised by the 1,100 verses that fill our streets with poetic evocations.

“Versos al paso”

The poet sets forth a polysemic riddle in a city replete with traffic lights and, through us, this adventurous journey proliferates. Pedestrians waiting to step forward, we are attracted by the poet’s song. We hear it in our mind and, encouraged by these verses, continue to develop it through our own journey, each with the unique tools of our personal experience. When we fall into the trap and read, the poem claims us as its own and we do just the same.

Have you ever played that game where one person says a phrase and then, in turn, the rest have to carry on inventing sentences to make up a whole story? I’m going to play that game now, but with the verses written on our streets.

“To live is not to doubt”

I stroll around Madrid. At a traffic light where Gravina and Barquillo streets cross, I find a verse by Rodrigo Cortés: “To live is not to doubt.” And I continue it like this:

“To live is not to doubt,”

certainty unleashed,

Does the tightrope walker falter?

Or existence hesitate?

Living unshackles, unties, unchains,

To live is to create existence.

“It’s never too late for spring”

I set off in search of the next traffic light and the next streets joined in verse. And there it is, in Plaza de las Salesas. There is a poem by Marta Massó which reads: “It’s never too late for spring.” I take up the challenge. Today I’m taking a creative stroll:

“It’s never too late for spring,”

Is it the eve of a siesta?

Be quiet,

she’s dozing in the twilight.

Don’t wake her,

she’ll come alone,

without warning.

Never an inconvenience,

she comes and stays a while,

she goes but always returns.

We just have to wait…

“Unknown, superposition of states until I look”

While I imagine what spring means to me, I continue walking and come across another verse. This one has me puzzled. What does C. Tangara mean with the line written on the pedestrian crossing at Paseo de Recoletos? “Unknown, superposition of states until I look.” Once again I resort to that game that awakens my imagination:


superposition of states until I look.”

His shell is unrecognisable,

misunderstood, even.

He has changed.

I knew him long before.

Although I’d never seen him,

he always felt familiar.

He was hidden there,

recasting his being.

“I love to imagine you but I prefer to experience you”

Excited by the fun of letting my mind run free, joining words in this game that stimulates the senses, I stroll along laughing at my own oddball ideas. What will I find at the next traffic light? What’s waiting for me? A verse by Araceli Guane: “I love to imagine you but I prefer to experience you.” This line will help me back to earth, to leave my world of ideas and delve into more sensorial  terrain:

“I love to imagine you but I prefer to experience you,”

to savour your promise,

delight in the here and now.

At my pace, unhurried,

to draw you to my nose, my eyes, my hands.

You don’t need to be present,

you don’t need to be close.

You’re here though you’re not here.

I prefer to experience you but I love to imagine you as well.

Photography: Oscar Rivilla

Translation: Rebekah James Rhodes

Music: Dr Symptosizer

Hair&Makeup: Jose Sande

Art direction: Carolina Verd

Fashion: hoodie by Vans; jeans and sneakers by Levis courtesy from Finally Press.