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Poetry in motion

By JACINDA HOWARD, The Mirror

Shiny white plaques, decorated in blue and brown swirls of color, have the ability to lead bus passengers into a dream world.

King, Pierce, Kitsap and Snohomish county residents, some of them transit users, have put their desires, fears, hopes, creations and stories on display through the Poetry on Buses program.

This long-standing program began in 1992 and is fostered through a partnership between King County Metro and 4 Culture, King County’s cultural services agency. It introduces bus riders to their peers’ poetry.

“It’s a way to create a partnership between art and transportation,” 4Culture spokeswoman Lara Holman Garritano said.

Passengers come and go at all times of the day and night. They are young and old, hopeful and desolate. Their feelings and thoughts often unspoken, their final destinations unknown. But, for some of them, their dreams flow forth in words that have been crafted into poetry and secured to the walls — above the seats on King County Metro buses.

In 2007, approximately 3,000 short poems were submitted for consideration in the program. A panel of regional poets and writers chose 55 art pieces, each following a “dreams” theme, to be displayed on King County Metro buses this year. The artwork was placed on the buses beginning in October.

Two buses are completely adorned with poetry, rather than the advertisements that generally appear above bus seats, Holman Garritano said. Additionally, each of the 55 poems are reprinted 65 times, totaling 3,575 poetry placards placed on the remainder of the fleet, she said.

The meanings and messages of the artwork vary. In 50 words or less, the poems describe reality and fantasy worlds. They are submitted by people of all ages — and as young as 6 years old.

Angela Reid of Seattle fantasizes about creating a new life for herself in France — complete with a short haircut, best-selling cookbook, her memoirs and a winery in a poem called “1:175,711,536.” The desires of bus riders — friends, sleep, a window seat — are detailed in a poem by Candace Jarrett, of Seattle, titled “We are the Bobbleheads.”

Denise Calvetti Michaels, of Kirkland, wonders if New Orleans will ever again flourish in her poem called “New Orleans Reverie, After Volunteering.”

Some metro passengers notice the poems. Some are too busy or indifferent to the poetry. Such was the case last Wednesday, when one young couple departing Federal Way toward Seattle sat on a metro bus, route 194. Hanging above their heads was a poem. It depicted the first-grade friendship of a red-headed boy and a brown-eyed girl. “First Grade Friends” was written by Vijaya Bodach of Redmond.

Oblivious to the poetry, the couple sat huddled together. They whispered back and forth between themselves, sharing secrets the other passengers were not privy to. Maybe they were sharing their dreams, or discussing where to exit the bus.

“I love that the poem up there could be the innermost dreams of the person sitting next to me,” said Paige Weinheimer, Poetry on Buses coordinator.

Contact Jacinda Howard at: jhoward@fedwaymirror.com or (253) 925-5565.

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Check it out

To read all the Poetry on Buses poems visit the King County Metro Web site at http://transit.metrokc.gov/. A book of the poems is in print as well.

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