Poetry Friday: Poetry on Transit

Imagine if you will a rainy day in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Is it the 20th consecutive day of rain, or the 21st? You’ve completely lost count.

It’s a weekday afternoon and you’re crammed cheek to jowl with countless other soggy, steaming Vancouverites on a rush hour train out of town. You’ve got a wet wool coat pressed into your nose, and a sharp umbrella poking into your leg.

You have seen better days.

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Bored and frustrated, you look up, and slipped in between the adds for laundry detergent and upcoming films you spot it. A poem. It’s short – only a few lines long, but as you read it you suddenly find yourself transported. You’re not a sad, soggy sardine, but a captivated poetry reader, swept away by words. The feeling only last a moment, but it’s enough to make the miserable commute just that bit more bearable.

Since 1996, the Poetry in Transit program has placed poems by B.C. poets on trains and buses across the Lower Mainland. Each year, 16 poems are selected and placed on cards where commuters would otherwise see advertisements.

Image result for poetry in transit

The project, developed by the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia and Translink, helps draw attention to the rich, diverse B.C. poetry scene, while connecting local residents and visitors with inspiring, engaging poetry.

What I find so fantastic about the Poetry in Transit program is that it helps makes poetry accessible, breaking down barriers and challenging assumptions and stereotypes. Poetry isn’t a rarefied pursuit, accessible only to the elite. Poetry is by and for everyone, and should be accessible to everyone, wherever they live and whatever they do. Placing poetry in prominent places not only helps normalise poetry, but also helps reinforce the feeling that poetic expression is valid and important.

So, thank you Poetry in Transit for filling our everyday lives with poetry, and here’s to twenty more years of celebrating B.C. poets!

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22 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: Poetry on Transit

  1. Poetry on Transit is brilliant! Your description of your “sad, soggy sardine” commute was so poignant that when you saw a poem it lifted my spirits, too, even without the benefit of the words. Just knowing that a poem gave you a few seconds of respite is restorative. I was honored to have one of my haiku displayed on the streets of Washington DC (I live in Tucson) in the winter of 2015. =)

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  2. How wonderful. I love your early description of that commute, Jane, actually thought you’d written a prose poem for us today. Some of us would gladly take one or more of those rainy days! When I flew back east to my poetry retreat, Jane, I had a stopover in the Cinncinatti airport. They had huge stained glass inserts of poems in the part where I was waiting. It was a joy to see them. Maybe this “public” poetry will begin to happen everywhere!

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  3. I’m a bit jealous of this program. I would love finding poetry in public.Bravo for Vancouver B.C.Now I want to know what the poem is! Thanks for pointing out a bit of civility in the world. Here just outside “the beltway” of Washington DC we are all so tired of the political bickering. Poetry is needed to sooth millions of souls here!

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  4. Jane, the odd time I ride the bus or skytrain, I haven’t seen those poetry snippets. Now I will keep an eagle eye out. (Love how you describe yourself as a “sardine.” We have had a rainy fall, haven’t we! Stay dry and inspired.)

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  5. Oh, we actually had a similar thing where I grew up in Germany! There’d be a number of short poems in ad spaces on buses and trains. I don’t know if they’re still there – I haven’t seen them recently, but I also haven’t been there a lot, but I agree it’s a fantastic idea! And I liked your commute description. 🙂

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