POETRY IN MOTION®: Inspiration and comfort on the subway ride

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MTA Enthusiast10. CreativeCommons.org

This past week I visited my daughter in NYC. We enjoyed a dance performance, widow shopping on 5th Avenue, a behind-the-scenes NBC tour, walking through Central Park, and dinner with her brother and cousins.

December in New York is filled with glittering lights and holiday cheer. There are  fabulous window displays. The giant menorah lit in Central Park. The spectacular Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. There’s outdoor music. Ice skating beneath the towering 30 Rock building.  Rockefeller Plaza is abuzz with smiling people from around the world all wanting to catch the seasonal spirit.

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The city streets sparkle with so much color and light that you can even forget that it’s night time. The city’s grime temporarily disappears. For a moment you can even forget the onslaught of daily bad news.

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Saks 5th Ave

Until the bad news infiltrates the magical moment…once again. And that is what happened as another tragedy fueled by hate happened across the river in Jersey City while my daughter and I stood amongst the peaceful crowd in midtown.

What can you do but turn toward the light and hope and pray and carry on?

Yahrzeit-Candle

. * . * . *

Later, while riding the subway, my daughter pointed out a poetry poster. “I see that one a lot,” she said. “I like it.”

I did, too. Sometimes a particular poem presents itself at just the right moment.

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Artist,Cara Lynch

Maybe you’re wondering: Poetry in the subway? Yes, indeed. Poetry in Motion® is a public arts program that places poetry in transit systems of cities throughout the country. It was first launched in 1992 by MTA New York City Transit and the Poetry Society of America. The project has garnered great enthusiasm from riders since its inception.

Each day millions of subway riders travel with the messages of accomplished poets from today and yesteryear. Young and old, rich and poor, educated and unschooled, black and white–encounter wordsmiths they’ve never met. A little nourishment for the soul.

“We look for poems that will speak to all ethnicities, genders, ages. We look for voices that will stimulate the exhausted, inspire the frustrated, comfort the burdened, and enchant even the youngest passengers.”  Molly Peacock, former president of PSA.

When I returned home, I looked up Jane Valentine (isn’t that a great last name?), author of the above poem and was pleased to discover her treasure chest of poetry.

I read more about the transit project and found a 2017 anthology  available with all the subway poems including a history of the collaboration. You can also see more poetry posters on the PSA website.

This simple one makes me smile knowingly. Doesn’t matter that it was written centuries ago!

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Poetry Society of America

Poetry holds the power to inspire, comfort, muse, move, and enchant. When the world is turning upside down, we all turn to distractions of sort. Turning to art—words in particular—is what centers me.

Poetry reminds us that we are not alone in our heartbreak or struggles, that others have tread through grief and loss, love and joy, birth and death, insecurity and depression, war and tragedy and found their way through.  We’re reminded of our shared humanity, sometimes through humor, or keen insight, or a startling turn of phrase.

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“Heaven” by Patrick Phillips. Artwork, Mary Temple

Sometimes the poet’s masterful metaphor and elegant language can open our eyes to  new ways of seeing.  And isn’t this what is so needed at this moment in our divisive culture?

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“Awakening” by Maya Angelou. ArtistWilliam Low.

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“Grand Central” by Billy Collins

 

“Poetry gives shape to those empty spaces within us that we have no words for until we find them in a poem.”  ~ Jill Bialowsky  Poetry Will Save Your Life.

Wishing you all a holiday of light and a New Year of poetry. 

 

 

16 responses

  1. What an amazing adventure – and creative read! Thank you for sharing this, Evelyn! I’ve never been to NYC, but it sounds like an amazing place filled with diverse culture. I’m sorry you experienced hate, but I’m glad that you experienced love through poetry – on the subway, no less, too. Indeed, poetry brings out the humanity in us; it’s a great distraction and healing tool – in my humble opinion. Celebrating the holidays in NYC must be one of the best experiences ever. I’ve never been (yet), but I love reading about others’ adventures. Also, you and your daughter look great, and you look so young! 🙂

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    • Thank you, GB. Speaking of creativity…that’s quite an interesting new alias. I hope you can get to NYC some time. It’s really a destination: Wall Street, Broadway, MOMA, Lincoln Center, Ellis Island, 5th Avenue, Central Park, Grand Central Station, Carnegie Hall. You could spend a week visiting the museums alone. It is also a very expensive city, but there are freebies and budget-friendly sites. Even though I lived there for 4 years (way back) and have visited yearly, I’m always surprised by the frenetic pace, the noise, and the crowds. It takes me a day or so to settle in. As fun and exciting as it is, I always enjoy re-entering my quiet town where everything closes by ten. By the way, Chicago Transit also exhibited Poetry in Motion a while back. Not sure if the poems are still there. Haven’t seen any in my recent visits.

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      • Awe, I never got to see Chicago’s poetry in motion, though I rode the “el” many times. I cannot wait to visit NYC one day. I’ll have to save for that. 🙂

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  2. Dear Evelyn: I live in Brooklyn, NY. Thank you for sharing this with all your readers. Could you please identify the artist and the site of the art you placed just below the Rockefeller Center Xmas tree . Thank you – and Happy Holidays! TS

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a beautiful post, Evelyn. It’s perfect for the holiday season. I love the idea of Poetry in Motion. I grew up outside of the DC area and traveled on the subway often. I’m wondering if they’re participating. Thanks for sharing your lovely photos. It looks like you had the perfect mother/daughter trip. Enjoy the holidays.

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