Morningside Lights





For 100 years, the Pulitzer Prizes have celebrated the leading writers and artists of our time. This year’s theme, TRAVERSE, invites participants to create lanterns inspired by Pulitzer Prize-winning poetry. Over the course of the week, visiting artists Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles of Processional Arts Workshop will help community members imagine and design vibrant lanterns that illuminate passages by Sara Teasdale, Mark Strand, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Lowell, and other great poets who have received this distinctive honor over the past century. Kahn and Michahelles will facilitate the production of the fleet of 100+ illuminated objects by teaching participants the artistic fabrication techniques needed to bring their ideas to life.


See this year's lanterns and the poems that inspired them!



This is the height emerging and its base
These lights may finally attain a pole
In the midmost midnight and find the serpent there,


In another nest, the master of the maze
Of body and air and forms and images,
Relentlessly in possession of happiness.


~ Wallace Stevens, The Auroras of Autumn (Pulitzer Prize 1955)


One can almost picture a winding parade of lanterns in Wallace Stevens’ words, “the height emerging and its base / These lights may finally attain a pole / In the midmost midnight and find the serpent there.”  Poetry has an uncanny way of returning to us again and again, each time with rediscovered personal relevance and seemingly prescient imagery. As Morningside Lights celebrates its 5th year of bringing illuminated art to Morningside Park, TRAVERSE, evokes another sort of luminary. This year, we mark 100 years of the Pulitzer Prize, inviting makers and marchers to literally illuminate their favorite passages from a century of timeless poets. 


Poetry has been a dynamic force in both the evolving cultural landscape of Harlem and the literary legacy of Columbia University. Drawing inspiration from poets ranging from Robert Frost to Rita Dove, participants will embed fragments of text into figments of imagination. Working in collaboration with Columbia’s Rare Book and Manuscript Library, the workshops will coincide with an exhibition celebrating 100 years of Pulitzer Prize winners across disciplines. 


Columbia’s Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre again host a week of collaborative workshops, led by Processional Arts Workshop, to create dozens of giant lanterns for the procession. Guided by PAW artists Alex Kahn and Sophia Michahelles, participants will learn techniques to construct and compose giant lanterns while interpreting their chosen poems in a new light. The resulting procession will appear as a serpentine line of illuminated verse, forming and re-forming into new sequences as it traverses Morningside Park in a procession (to quote Wallace Stevens) “of body and air and forms and images / relentlessly in possession of happiness.”





  • Check out the Pulitzer Prize website to browse the complete list of winners in poetry from the past century. Find the poem that speaks to you.
  • The University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Programs in Contemporary Writing has compiled a wonderful online resource called PennSound where you can hear great authors reading from their own work. Explore their audio recordings of Pulitzer Prize-winning poets, including Wallace Stevens reading “The Auroras of Autumn” in 1954, the year before he won the Pulitzer Prize. Here are some other recordings to help awaken your literary imagination:

Rae Armantrout, including excerpts from Verse (Pulitzer Prize 2010)
CK Williams, including excerpts from Repair (Pulitzer Prize 2000)
Yusef Komunyakaa, including excerpts from Neon Vernacular: New and Selected Poems (Pulitzer Prize 1994)
James Schuyler, complete reading of The Morning of the Poem (Pulitzer Prize 1981)
William Carlos Williams, including excerpts from Pictures from Brueghel (Pulitzer Prize 1963)

  • On September 12, Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library will open an exhibition of ephemera celebrating the Pulitzer Prize Centennial, including highlights from the poetry collection. Visit Butler Library, 6th Floor East.

Morningside Lights concept and direction by Processional Arts Workshop. Co-produced by the Arts Initiative and Miller Theatre at Columbia University, in collaboration with Friends of Morningside Park. This year’s theme was developed in collaboration with Columbia’s Rare Book & Manuscript Library, and their concurrent exhibition celebrating the Pulitzer Prize centennial.