Mar 15, 2024

Have You Heard of Poesiomats? Public Art that Lets Cities Speak Poetry

A Czech invention that brings an innovative twist to the concept of urban furniture.

They look like black periscopes sticking out of the ground and observing the urban landscape around them. Or they could be confused with an air pipe that connects to some grid hidden in the Netherlands.

Meet the Poesiomats – the urban poetry machines that have taken over most of the cities in the Czech Republic, and recently also other places around the world.

The idea behind the Poesiomat, invented by café owner and cultural activist Ondřej Kobza, was to create a sort of publicly accessible jukebox for spoken word culture.

The first one of this type was installed in Prague’s Namesti Míru in 2015 and since then they have become a common feature in other Czech cities, towns, villages and even castles.

The aim of the Poesiomat is to revive the appeal of poetry by making it easily accessible to the masses. According to the initiative’s website, the poetry machines, however, can also contain lyrics, songs, and sounds related to the specific place they are located in.

On Tuesday, 12 March, a Poesiomat was erected in Kaznice, Brno-sever district.

Reminiscent of a submarine periscope, this machine talks and sings when prompted, offering poetry by important Czech poets interned in Káznice such as Jan Zahradníček, memories of political prisoners, and also poems, songs and texts by contemporary Czech and Roma authors.

Listeners of the Poesiomat can choose from 20 audio tracks, including the poem “Bratislavská”, written by the prominent Czech poet Jan Zahradníček during his prison stay in Káznice. Other poets featured who were also interned in the Cejl prison include Václav Renč and Zdeněk Rotrekl.

The Poesiomat in Brno, Source: City of Brno

In essence, that means that no two are alike in terms of their cultural content.

The poetry machines are made of steel and are about 180 cm tall, consisting of three assembled parts. Inside each of them, there’s a speaker and electronic software which contains 20 different mp3 files. Passers-by can spin a handle jutting out from one side of the machine and choose what to play.

For a list of locations and further information about Poesiomat, see

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