The Nicollet Lanterns feature twelve original poems by Sagirah Shahid, Moheb Soliman, R. Vincent Moniz, Jr. (Nu’Eta) and Junauda Petrus. Each poet wrote three poems of approximately 100 words. The lanterns, created by Blessing Hancock, were part of a 2015-2017 renovation of a 12-block stretch of Nicollet Avenue, the shopping and dining district of the city, a pedestrian and transit mall. A transit mall is a street, or set of streets, in a city along which automobile traffic is prohibited or greatly restricted and only public transit vehicles, bicycles, and pedestrians are permitted. Originally converted in 1967, it was the first such mall in the United States.
San Antonio folk may recognize Blessing Hancock as the Arizona artist who created the “Ballroom Luminoso” chandeliers, made of recycled bicycle parts, that hang under the I-35 underpass at Theo & Malone.
The globes are four feet across and made of stainless steel, lined with acrylic. There are LED lights within to make them glow at night. The lines of poetry run horizontally around the globes, but, at different angles as you walk past, the text recombines into “word-clouds.” New word connections emerge every time you see the work.
In the top photo, the lantern on the right incorporates this poem by Sagirah Shahid:
We shouldn’t have to say
Thirteenth amendment couldn’t protect us
from the war on drugs,
after our leaders were jailed or shot
our country pressed its fingers up against our spine
but you should know
we still want a new flag:
Brave Like Martin
Bronze Lit Movement
Beautiful Like Malcolm
Blessed Lone Mamas giving us life.
We want this new flag
on bended knee and repenting,
the old one lost all credit the first time
it racked up the debts of genocide,
and when we get it
may the streets be soaked in rosewater
may the streets be cloaked in the sage we have lit.
– Sagirah Shahid © 2016
All of the poems can be read online here.