On a brief visit home to Belfast last week, accompanied by my wife and two Belfast newbies, I had a couple of hours of 'me time' which I used to visit a wondrous machine at the Crescent Arts Centre (University Road). It is the Poetry Jukebox, a periscope of delights, where anyone can stop to listen to a poet reading his or her poems. The idea is brilliant and the sound quality is excellent. As traffic shoots by, it is possible to blank out the noise by concentrating on the voices and words of poets like Michael Longley.
As I understand it, the jukebox idea was developed by Andrej Kobza and Michael Heckova as part of a Czech cultural project and adopted and curated for Belfast by Maria McManus and Deirdre Cartmill, both poets and, regarding this innovation and installation, geniuses. If ever a city should be proud of its creative arts, it is Belfast and the Poetry Jukebox is a symbol of such creativity.
There are such magic machines in various parts of the world, I read, including Berlin, New York and Prague.
The jukebox was launched last year and, to quote newspaper coverage, the aim is to create "an innovative new journal of poetry for the island of Ireland.......putting literature in public space......and open minds and hearts with the power and intensity and gentleness of poetry.....putting poetry where it belongs, everywhere for everyone."
What a great idea and not just an idea, a reality. This jukebox should be on every visitor's agenda and any native should bear it in mind if they are just having a dander around town.
What is this life if full of care, we have no time to stop, admire and listen to the Poetry Jukebox.
I love it and cock an ear the next time you are in the Botanic, University Road area.
Here's me, after hijacking a passer-by to take the photograph: