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The Poems on the Bus

RIPTA makes the Monday commute more bearable with the Poetry in Motion project

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In public spaces that often are overrun with advertisements, commercial signage and capitalist messaging, would a simple poem catch your attention? Would it make you stop and reflect, take pause, perhaps provide a brief respite in the midst of a busy day, even if only for a moment?

That is what the Poetry in Motion project hopes to do. The program, which originated several years ago in New York City, uses public transit as a vehicle (literally) for displays of short poems for public consumption. Since its inauguration, the program has been implemented in transit systems across the country.

This fall, Poetry in Motion was introduced in Rhode Island thanks to a joint effort by Rhode Island Poet Laureate Tina Cane and the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA). Poems will be displayed on the digital display boards inside RIPTA’s buses, with visual art to accompany each selection. The first poetic exhibit featured an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s “Song of Myself” along with artwork by Lucinda Hitchcock, the head of RISD’s Graphic Design Department.

New poems and exhibits will be posted monthly, with Cane acting as curator. Barbara Polichetti, director of public affairs for RIPTA, says that RIPTA aims to ensure “that the poetry selections are inclusive and accessible to a broad population” and that they “celebrate or explore our oneness as individuals and as a community.” As Cane puts it, public transit is the “most perfect and egalitarian vehicle to disseminate poetry throughout our state.” In the future, Cane and Polichetti hope to give the project a uniquely Rhode Island flavor by featuring the work of local poets and artists.