Walk Down Sampsonia Way: House Poem by Huang Xiang

by Brian Honigman    /  June 2, 2010  / 1 Comment

Every Wednesday we’ll take a walk down Sampsonia Way, the very street we’ve named our magazine after, and give a brief background of each work of art this small street has to offer. This week we’ll take a look at 408 Sampsonia Way, known as House Poem. Painted by City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s first writer in residence Huang Xiang, this house features an anthology of his poetry helping to illustrate how Xiang has the right to write freely in the United States.

Huang Xiang was born in China’s Hunan Province in 1941, and has been writing poems since 1950. In 1978, he founded an underground writers’ society and a literary magazine both named Enlightenment. Nearly a decade later, he was arrested for his pro-Democracy activities and sentenced to three years of labor. He served twelve years in prison and was subjected to repeated torture, eventually leading to exile. He has lived in the United States since 1997. In the summer of 2004, Huang Xiang became the first writer in City of Asylum/Pittsburgh’s exiled writer-residency program.

He immediately made his mark on the city, figuratively and literally, by covering the façade of his residency house on Sampsonia Way with calligraphies of his poetry. This remarkable artwork, called “House Poem,” became an instant landmark celebrating the freedom to write. Since then, it has attracted thousands of visitors and inspired many poets. He and his family now live in New York. Highly regarded by his peers as a poetic innovator, Huang Xiang’s poetry and other works are still banned in China.

Read a poem from the very walls of 408 Sampsonia Way:

Writing in 3-D

The oldest way to write poetry
Is with a brush
The newest way to write poetry
Is with the body
The most wonderful way to write poetry
Is to stand right on your head
With mind and body as one
And dab ink
On the ground!

House Poem is one of the homes available to exiled writers through the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, but is currently used as office space for Sampsonia Way Magazine.

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