Poetry In Motion—When Art Met Public Transportation

As an ex-NYC resident currently residing in where-the-fuck-did-I-go-wrong-in-my-life-that-I-ended-up-in-this-godforsaken-place, city, I find that I miss a lot of things about my old stomping grounds. Sure the crowds, on-top-of-crowds weren’t pleasant, and certainly absurd rent costs, blackened gum squashed into the sidewalks, and rats the size of cats, were not things to render me nostalgic—but there were other things; like the subway.

For those of you suburbanites, who’d never dream of stepping into those moving dungeons of filth and pestilence, I’m here to tell you that you are missing out on some great stories. Sure, driving in your gas-guzzling vehicle has its convenience, and perhaps sitting in a traffic jam in the comfort of your own car is more luxurious, then getting pushed and shoved into a smelly, congested train car. And yet, as a writer, you’d never get to see the stories of young boys doing break-dancing or handicapped hustlers who are deformed on the train, and walk straight when they are off it. Or a Wall Street executive reading a newspaper, who has the audacity to mistake a train car for a bathroom stall, and decides to whip it out, and let it flow free, for his fellow un-amused passengers. If great stories like that don’t move you, I’ll share with you another thing.

Poetry in Motion was NYC’s attempt, for one brief shining moment, to interject art into these congested dungeons of pestilence. On all subway cars there are banners placed above that usually feature advertisements. Traditionally you’d see things like Dr. Zizmor, a dermatologist whose skin was so flawless, he’d put a baby’s ass to shame. But for a period someone had the novel idea to place poems there. These were poems from renowned poets, but what struck me most about them was the juxtaposition between art and mass transit. Poetry has always had a vaulted, if not aloof status, and these days not something deemed of interest to the mass public. And yet, somehow, someone thought that in the midst of what is usually a hectic NYC day, that art—literary art—was necessary. While not everyone may have cared, it was something I took notice of.

I don’t remember most of the poems featured, but there was one—although short—poem that after many years, has still stood with me. It went something like this: “I want to be the air that inhabits you for a moment only. I want to be that unnoticed, and that necessary.” After reading this, I realized that it is not only love that is all around us. Words, beautiful and profound, could also be there.

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2 Responses to Poetry In Motion—When Art Met Public Transportation

  1. elynyc says:

    Poetry in Motion has made a huge comeback along with the feature artist making art of nyc subway system. Personally I think Bloombergs PSA campaigns is interesting (Smoking Teen Pregnancy and of course most recently soft drinks.)

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