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.

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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!