Cleansing trucks are poetry in motion

Cleansing trucks are poetry in motion

The City of Sydney’s cleansing trucks are being transformed into literary treasures this month, bringing poetry to life in unexpected locations thanks to a project curated by the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival.

Eleven trucks decorated with verses by famous poets, including Irishman W.B. Yeats and Australian activist Judith Wright, will hit the streets today.

Each truck features two giant poems, measuring more than two metres wide and one metre high, with a total of 19 poems appearing in the series.

“This month, we’re celebrating one of Sydney’s most iconic cultural events, the Sydney Writers’ Festival, by displaying much-loved poetry in a distinctly different way,” Lord Mayor Clover Moore said.

“From Shakespeare and Wordsworth to ancient Greek epics and celebrated Australian writers, poetry has delighted and inspired people for thousands of years.

“I encourage Sydneysiders to look out for the poems as they roam the city streets this month – they might even be inspired to find their own favourite sonnet.”

Jemma Birrell, the artistic director of the 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival, said: “In creating this project with the City of Sydney, we want to inspire people with unexpected literary experiences in everyday situations and showcase poems that make people think and consider the world or themselves differently.”

The poems featured on the trucks have been selected by Luke Davies, the 2012 Prime Minister’s Literary Award-winning poet and 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival guest.

The poems include W. B. Yeats’ “Vacillation”, Judith Wright’s “Woman to Child”, Peter Porter’s “The Unicorn in Love” and Kay Ryan’s “Fool’s Errands”.

Mr Davies said he chose a series of poems “that stop one in one’s tracks, and are utterly unlike the advertising copy that litters the verbal landscape.

“If one single non-festival-going, non-poetry-reading citizen out there is led to look up one of these poems, I will feel wildly successful in my task as curator.”

The Sydney Writers’ Festival is one of the largest writers’ festivals in the world, attracting more than 80,000 attendances and featuring over 400 writers and authors each year.

The City has been a major sponsor of the event since its launch in the late 1990s, and in 2012 announced a significant funding boost for the 2013 and 2014 festivals, worth $330,000 each year.

This year’s program, which focuses on the importance of storytelling in contemporary life, features more than 500 guests at over 50 venues – including two of the City’s most stunning venues, Sydney Town Hall and the City Recital Hall in Angel Place.

The 2013 Sydney Writers’ Festival runs from 20-26 May. For more information, visit:

Poets and their selected works featured on the trucks are:

  • Rainer Maria Rilke (from “Archaic Torso of Apollo”) (tr: Stephen Mitchell)
  • Gig Ryan (from “When I Consider”)
  • Peter Porter (from “The Unicorn in Love”)
  • Jessy Randall (“Why I had Children”)
  • Martin Harrison (from “Walking Back from the Dam”)
  • David Campbell (“Mothers and Daughters”)
  • John Berryman (from “Eleven Addresses to the Lord”)
  • W. B. Yeats (from “Vacillation”)
  • Kevin Hart (from “Dark Bird”)
  • Judith Wright (from “Sonnet”)
  • Kay Ryan (“Fool’s Errands”)
  • John Berryman (from “Op. posth. no. 13”)
  • Laurie Duggan (from “Letter to John Forbes”)
  • joanne burns (“revisionism”)
  • John Berryman (from “Overseas Prayer”)
  • Marilyn Hacker (“Villanelle for D.G.B.”)
  • L. K. Holt (from “From Inside the MRI Scanner”)
  • Judith Wright (from “Woman to Child”)
  • S. K. Kelen (from “Reality Check”)

Media contacts

City of Sydney Senior Media Adviser – Keeley Irvin.
Phone 0448 005 718 or email

Lord Mayor Clover Moore – Jonathon Larkin.
Phone 0477 310 149 or email

Sydney Writers’ Festival Publicist – Benython Oldfield.
Phone 0410 355 790 or email