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Poetry on Buses is a program currently hosted by King County Metro and curated by 4Culture. It began in 1992 as a presentation of poetry from the Seattle community on the placards found above the bus seats. Says the website, “The poems are written by that person across the aisle, that kid in the back, or the professional poet.”

I remember being a young man and new to Seattle and seeing these poems on the buses I rode, my sole mode of transportation at the time. Back then, in the early 1990s, I was so impressed and enamored of the verse I read just above the heads of my fellow riders sitting across from me that I rushed to send in some of my own work. This I did again and again; and again and again I received polite rejection letters from the program. Here is a couple of the poems I sent in through the years.

 

 

Word Problem:

     How many
                         drops
                    of rain


                                  are falling
     at this moment
     on this city
     in this storm

                                   How many
     on this patch of asphalt

     from now to now

                              Count them

 

And…

Seattle

Gull-angels sculpt the sound winds
that tunnel through the buildings. Crying wild,
in wide circles searching, they carve
a city’s formless redemption; omens of torture and belief.

What’s to ignore?
What’s to deny?
If a transparent pain falls shattering
on you, what beautiful views?
What?
What grays, what greener than greens?

 

Looking back through 20/20 critical hindsight lenses: no, I no longer think these pieces are my strongest work. But I still recognize the impulses behind them. And I still stand by those impulses. In other words, I like where my younger self is going. The impulse to create poetry in the context of a city is almost always worthwhile.

I’m still primarily a bus rider. It’s my only way of commuting to work, since my family only has the one mini-van, which I drive maybe once or twice a week, on errands.

The Poetry on Buses program went on hiatus for a few years, but I was excited to see on a friend’s Facebook page a few months back that it had returned and new poems were being solicited on the theme of “writing home.” I immediately sent in my piece, “Instant Messenger” and was utterly charmed and delighted when I got the news that it had been selected as one of the poems that would be shared on selected buses. All 365 poems will be showcased on the Poetry on Buses site, a new poem for each day of the year. My day next year will be August 24, 2015. Additionally, each week, a new portrait of a featured poet and an audio poem will offer you an extra look and a listen. (And, happily I do believe “Instant Messenger” is one of these poems as well.) 125 of the 365 poems will also appear on select RapidRide buses or stations. Some onboard our four RapidRide Poetry Buses and others as discrete poems throughout the RapidRide fleet. The bus and station poems will offer an on-the-spot poetic experience, and also invite visits to the online collection.

More fun is coming up very soon! The Poetry on Buses launch party will be held November 10, 2014 at the Moore Theater. It’s free and all ages: a vast and necessary celebration of poetry and music, including:

 

  • Readings by 36 local poets in English, Russian, Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese.(I'll be one of the poets reading!)
  • Live music by Love City Love.
  • Special appearances by Seattle Fandango Project, Marianna and Youth Speaks Seattle.
  • The premiere of the Writing Home Collection – all 365 poems!

 

I hope I see you there!

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