Telepoem Booths let you dial a poem in vintage phone booths

I love public art, and this interactive project is especially cool. Check out these "Telepoem Booth" installations crafted from vintage phone booths. If you are lucky enough to find one in person, you can enter the booth and dial a number and listen to poetry. I'm extra lucky to live part-time within a five-minute walk to one, in Bisbee Arizona.

If you're nowhere near one of the Telepoem Booths, but have access to a rotary or push-button phone, you can use these directories to access over a thousand poems written and recited by regional, national, and international poets. Some of the directories even offer full texts of the poems on offer. And if you don't have access to a booth, nor to rotary or push-button phones, a handful of poems are available to listen to, on the internet—click here to access those.

Some of the brilliant folks behind the telepoem booth project include creator Elizabeth Hellstern, fabricator and sculptor Owen William Fritts, and computer programmer David Earl Smith. The telepoem booth website offers this description of the installations:

– A multi-sensory community gift: visual, haptic and aural, multi-genre and multi-media. ADA accommodations provide poetry for all users, of all physical abilities. 

-Poetry, art and music pieces that engage participation and feature community poets. Performance vehicle for voices of many kinds. Co-created with community.

The website also provide this history of the project:

The Telepoem Booth® art installation was created by writer and artist Elizabeth Hellstern, who currently resides in Santa Fe County, NM. We repurpose and re-enchant decommissioned (and disappearing) telephone booths to give back to communities in multi-sensory ways: visual, haptic and aural. Telepoem Booths are multi-genre and multi-media, using poetry, art and recordings to impact users. Most importantly, they are engaging art pieces that require the audience's participation.

Telepoem Booths are provocative, exciting installation art pieces that place poetry in the public realm. They deliver an impactful emotional insight to each listener. Hearing poetry read can be cathartic and healing, providing a multi-sensory way for the public to access poetry and the human experience. Telepoem Booths give a performance vehicle for voices of many kinds.

Telepoem Booths are absolutely unique as they require the user to complete the creative cycle by interactively selecting a poem of their choice and physically dialing a phone. They are three-dimensional literary magazines that provide a contextual historical platform for poets and writers to (literally) be heard. And they activate, in every instance, a communal experience and excitement within the literary community where the booth has been placed.

Permanent installations of telepoem booths can be found in Dubuque, Iowa; Bisbee, Arizona; Santa Fe, New Mexico (Genoveva Chavez Community Center); Las Vegas, New Mexico; and State College, Pennsylvania. Past installations appeared in Santa Barbara, California; Taos, New Mexico; Santa Fe, New Mexico (Center for Contemporary Arts), Flagstaff, Arizona; and Mesa, Arizona.

Click here for more information, including addresses of the permanent locations.