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London Poet Leaves Mysterious Sign Posts In Kentish Town

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London Poet Leaves Mysterious Sign Posts In Kentish Town

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London Poet Leaves Mysterious Sign Posts In Kentish Town

London Poet Leaves Mysterious Sign Posts In Kentish Town

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For three years, someone has been putting funny, often inspiring signs on a front stoop in Kentish Town, London. NPR spoke with the man behind the words, poet Mark Waddell.

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:

And now, a small mystery from the U.K. about a sign - like an actual, stick-in-your-yard sign.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Comedian Ariane Sherine was going for a run when she first saw this sign. It was on a wooden post in front of a house in Kentish Town. That's an area in London.

ARIANE SHERINE: It was in your normal kind of estate agent sign. It had words on it that were clearly typed out. And it said, she was the book he couldn't put down.

CORNISH: She was the book he couldn't put down.

SHERINE: And I thought, that is so strange. Why would that be on a sign outside a house? I mean, is it a poem, or does he want to get in touch with this mystery woman and give her a message?

MCEVERS: She kept running by. And every time, she saw the messages change - like, the drowning fish couldn't believe it. Can I borrow your cardigan again?

CORNISH: The pull of desire and the push of duty. And so, one day, Ariane goes up to the house and knocks on the door. No answer. She does it again. Still no answer. So finally, she slips a note under the door. The next day she got an e-mail - subject line, give me a sign.

MARK WADDELL: I feel like a positive prankster.

MCEVERS: That's Mark Waddell, the man behind the sign.

WADDELL: The idea behind them is really quite simple. It's just a way of brightening up people's lives as they're wandering down the streets in their own worlds, making them chuckle and perhaps think a little bit. So it's kind of like public art, but it's meant to be a little bit mysterious.

MCEVERS: Every two weeks for the last three years, he's been changing the sign. And not everybody loves them. A few angry people pulled his work from the ground, and one attempted to burn it. But most people seem to like it.

WADDELL: Sometimes people take photographs. Sometimes people have a little cry if it's a sad one or if it brings something to their memories.

MCEVERS: Mark Waddell says he's planning to do these as long as he can. In the meantime, he has a collection of poems coming out called "On The Cusp Of Greatness." Those poems will be in a book.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "THE SIGN")

ACE OF BASE: (Singing) I saw the sign, and it opened up my eyes. I saw the sign. Life is demanding without understanding...

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