Poetry on Buses showcases local voices

Starting in November, some of the spaces that contain advertisements on King County Metro Rapid Ride buses will display poetry instead.

“It’s about local voices and art in your everyday life,” Tamar Benzikry-Stern, Project Manager for 4Culture’s Public Art program and Poetry on Buses, said.

4Culture, King County’s cultural service agency, is a public development authority which works with County departments to bring art into King County buildings, infrastructure and public places – including buses. This year, 4Culture and King County Metro are rebooting “Poetry on Buses,” a program that originally started in 1992.

Poetry on Buses

King County residents were asked to submit poems online and invited to attend community poetry workshops held in May and June 2014. A total of 365 of the submitted poems – one for each day of the year – will be selected for display by a diverse panel of professional poets. Starting in November, these poems will be displayed on RapidRide buses, stations and published online. There will be four designated Poetry Buses plus an online component that will be up and running for one year.

Roberto Ascalon, the project’s Poet Planner, came up with the theme “Writing Home” for this year’s poems.

“We asked: What’s the first image you see when you hear the word “home?” What’s the first sound you hear? The first smell you smell? At the poetry workshops we shared memories and images, we did free-writes,” Ascalon said.

Benzikry-Stern said Metro Transit wanted to highlight RapidRide, while at the same time celebrating King County’s diverse voices.

“4Culture and Metro Transit are invested in increasing engagement, to share information about transit and cultural resources, and learn about how as County agencies, we can better serve our constituents.”

One of the ways they did this was commissioning liaisons and poets from King County’s Russian, Somali, Latino and Vietnamese communities.

“In addition to a general public push, we commissioned individuals from those communities to help structure the program. They helped us create an engagement strategy,” Benzikry-Stern said.

The four languages were chosen based off of King County’s Language Tiers. Poems from the four communities will be included in bus poetry.

Riding the bus will be that much better with the relaunch of the poetry program,” said Metro Transit General Manager Kevin Desmond. “Putting it on RapidRide in several languages will benefit riders from many diverse communities.”

4Culture and Metro Transit are designing art experiences for the bus and riders’ mobile devices – highlighting the WiFi Metro offers on its RapidRide fleet. Prior to Poetry on Buses, the organizations recently collaborated on B line Pulse, an artist-created mobile game to promote RapidRide.

Whether it’s poetry from a kindergartener or an award-winning published poet, Benzikry-Stern said Poetry on Buses is about enhancing the bus experience and engaging community with art.

The launch of Poetry on Buses: Writing Home will be celebrated at the Moore Theater on November 10, 2014. An evening of poetry and performance, all are welcome.