Poetry News

Join Jon Cotner in a Spontaneous Society

By Harriet Staff


After walking thousands of city blocks, poet Jon Cotner now wants to take you with him. In what seems like a combinatorial twist (is that a ballet move? ow) on theater of intimacy and Improv Everywhere, Cotner has developed a new walking project called "Spontaneous Society." Starting Thursday, June 9, and finishing on Friday, June 17, the walks each take place in a different neighborhood of New York City, including the UWS, West Village, East Village, and Cobble Hill. The project is produced by Elastic City, an organization founded by Todd Shalom that commissions artists to create their own walks, with the intention of "[focusing] less on providing factual information and more on heightening our awareness, exploring our senses and making new group rituals in dialogue with public space in the city."

So lest you think this a mere amble, keep reading. For "Spontaneous Society," Cotner will give each participant two lines to repeat to strangers on the sidewalk, in an effort to "replace urban anonymity with something bordering on affection," as he told us. Among your lines:

"That looks pretty cozy" (uttered when someone approaches with a baby carriage); "That's a good-looking wolfpack" (uttered when someone passes with three or more dogs); "I hear that's a nice way to cool off" (said when someone passes with an ice-cream cone, iced coffee, or slushy); "I hear that's good exercise" (said when someone passes holding heavy bags); "It must be nice to have a little helper" (said when a kid seems to be helping a parent or nanny) . . . .

Our suggestions: "Will you please take me to your fancy brunch," "Why in bells are you wearing that?" and "Kindly move away rightnow." No? Spontaneous societies nonetheless! (Maybe we shouldn't go on this one. But you should!) Each walk holds five people and is only $20. More info at Elastic City.

Originally Published: June 1st, 2011