De Letters van Utrecht is an ever-lengthening poem set in stone in the heart of the city of Utrecht, The Netherlands. Begun in 2012, each Saturday a new letter of the poem is hewn into brick cobble, with the aim of continuing at least until the year 2350, where each letter and the poem will have mapped out the Letters U and T across the city.
From the first 910 weeks, the poem-- as translated into English-- reads:
You have to begin somewhere to give the past its place,
the present matters ever less.
The further you are, the better.
You are the other already.
You are, as you know, the center of this story.
This is eternity.
It has the time.
Become one with your story and revel.
Tell us who you are with every step.
In our story we vanish inevitably, only you remain in the long run.
You and these letters hewn from stone.
As the letters on our grave.
The cracks in the cathedral’s tower.
Raised to heaven as an index finger,
to identify the guilty and demand more time.
So that we can walk straight again as humans along the canal.
Those staring at their feet.
See Utrecht’s churches stand out.
Raise your hands,
beg with the towers for this privilege:
to be now.
The weather is good.
Continue to stare.
Life is witness to your gaze to the horizon.
Your footsteps connect …
Conceived around the turn of the century, but only brought to its beginning over a decade later, the project is funded cobble by cobble from the public, and letters place only where it is assured longevity. It connects to other era spanning projects such as The Clock of the Long Now, and Katie Peterson's Future Library. (and most specifically as a living land art sculpture like Joseph Beuys' 7000 Oaks). While many cites have poetry, phrase and other word based art engraved of public appreciation, this project also serves to keep citizen's focused on long term planning for the good well-being of the city and all those in it. It is not only a writing work in progress, but a social sculpture and a living sculpture.
While having not seen this work in person, I learned of it via a talk given there by Warren Ellis on Myths and the River of Time. He said it is '..A river of words that rolls into the future, that will only speak its complete statement to the people in this space a couple of thousand years from now, words that mark this city from orbit. ... Changing the map. Haunting it with a poem.'
We read of such interventions into fictional worlds in the books and stories of authors like China Meiville and Walter Moers, but all over the world-- like a city in the Netherlands-- the future is being sung too, its lyrics lined along the streets.
The project's website|wiki page