Roadside senryu

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Roadside senryū is an anonymous unsanctioned art installation in 23 locations around the United States which began in June 2020.

The installations consist of metal signs, similar to highway signs in design and construction, but which contain a different 3-line poem in the Japanese senryū style. Senryū takes the same form as haiku, but reflects on human nature rather than the natural world. A web address on the back of each sign points to a website where a photograph of each sign is displayed with a map link and a recording of ambient sound from its location.

Birmingham's sign was installed in August 2020 on the triangle of grass between 1st Avenue North and Messer Airport Highway at 42nd Street North, near the Tom Brown Village public housing project in North Avondale. In white letters on a blue background, it reads:

I can come up with
Reasons it could never work
They are all empty

In an Instagram post accompanying the installation, the artist expands on the theme of the poem in the context of overcoming obstacles and self doubt relating to erecting the signs themselves. One of the hashtags also references Alabama's motto, "Audemus jura nostra defendere" or "We dare defend our rights." As a message to Birmingham, in particular, the lines could be read in the context of our reputation as a "City of Perpetual Promise".


  • Colurso, Mary (November 19, 2020) "Cryptic road sign in Alabama has some folks scratching their heads." The Birmingham News

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