love @ first line is a new site-specific public artwork by Anna Sergeeva that encircles YBCA’s architecture with the first lines of love poems written across centuries. Inspired by the opening lines of bell hooks’s All About Love: New Visions, Sergeeva wrote a Python script that serendipitously wove together the openings of six hundred love poems drawn from the Poetry Foundation’s collection. Gathered in spontaneous groupings of three, these new stanzas meander through YBCA’s public space—crawling along walls, floors, and windows. Inside the lobby, the public is invited to write their own lines of love on provided postcards as an acknowledgment that many of us are still distanced far from those we love.

Sergeeva and YBCA acknowledge the challenges of translation. The poetry in love @ first line were originally written in English, and that in itself establishes a hierarchy. In the hopes of creating an artwork that speaks directly to the various communities that call SOMA home, each line presented in Spanish, Tagalog, and Traditional Chinese has been selected by linguists Myra Bagalso, Silvia Cardoso, Shirley Lau, Mark Benedict F. Lim, Silvina Lopez Medin, and Yanin Peng and translated to evoke the emotions of the poems, rather than a direct translation. These translations have also been vetted by collaborating artists Miel Esperanza Alegre, Kenny Ng, and Javier Saavedra, who you can hear directly from in the work’s audio component.

YBCA exterior