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From Buses To Classrooms: State Poet Laureate Gifting Posters Featuring Poems Displayed Onboard RIPTA Buses To Rhode Island Schools

April 14, 2021

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State Poet Laureate Tina Cane Says This Is Next Step For “Poetry in Motion RI,” Project Which First Launched in 2017

For nearly four years, the Poetry in Motion RI project has brought a changing constellation of poems to Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) passengers via digital signage on its buses. Now, State Poet Laureate Tina Cane has had the artistic displays printed as posters and is sharing them with public and private schools across Rhode Island.  Drawing on funds from her poet laureate fellowship with the Academy of American Poets and the Mellon Foundation, Cane is distributing posters to all schools in the state.

“Logistically, I couldn’t bring Poetry in Motion RI to school buses, so I am sending it directly to the schools,” Cane said.  “I hope that these lines of poetry and gorgeous designs will be displayed on the walls of every Rhode Island school.  I imagine students catching sight of these posters while waiting in the office or walking down the hall and thinking, ‘Hmmm…what if?’ ”

“We appreciate Tina’s commitment to making poetry accessible and letting people see how it can be meaningful in their everyday lives,” said Scott Avedisian, RIPTA’s Chief Executive Officer.  “Our partnership with her continues to be rewarding for our passengers, and we love that she has used public transportation as a means of advancing the arts.”

Cane said she will distribute the poetry posters to all public and private schools in the state — more than 350 in total. She is hoping to find a sponsor that will help with this project, as well as with her ongoing efforts to make poetry relevant and meaningful in people’s everyday lives.

She first reached out to RIPTA in 2017 with the idea of creating a Rhode Island version of the Poetry in Motion project that originated in New York City in the early

1990s.  A collaboration between Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Poetry Society of America, it involved posting poems — or parts of poems — inside and on the exterior of the city’s buses and subway cars. Since then, numerous municipalities and transit authorities have created their own versions of the program.

“Anything that puts poetry and the literary arts in front of Rhode Islanders is valuable and important,” said Randall Rosenbaum, Executive Director of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA). “Since RIPTA typically reports more than 15 million passenger trips annually, the Poetry-in-Motion initiative has perhaps the greatest single impact in sharing poetry in our state.  RISCA is proud to support our great State Poet, Tina Cane, and our partners at RIPTA in this important work.”

RIPTA’s onboard digital signage typically displays rotating content of advertisements and public service announcements; the first poem was added to its scrolling messaging in September 2017.  Cane chose an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself  for the launch of Poetry in Motion RI,  Since then, the poems have changed every month or so, and she has selected the works of both local and national poets to be featured — each displayed with an original design. Cane, who has been Rhode Island’s State Poet Laureate since 2016, said that to date, more than two dozen poems have been displayed on RIPTA buses. 

To learn more about the project and short video, click here. The video was created by Cane’s son, Cormac Crump, a student at Jacqueline Walsh High School in Pawtucket. You can also learn more about Poetry in Motion RI at https://www.instagram.com/poetryinmotionri/.

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