A moment of respite or reflection in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our busy days. That is what the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) and Rhode Island’s State Poet Laureate hope to create for thousands of public transit riders. RIPTA and Poet Laureate Tina Cane today announced the launch of “Poetry in Motion” in Rhode Island. The program, which was first started by The Poetry Society of America in collaboration with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority in New York City in 1992, involves the posting of poems – or parts of poems – inside and outside buses and subway cars. Since its inception, numerous municipalities and regional transit systems across the country have taken part in the program.
In Rhode Island, the program will start with the posting of poems on the digital display boards that are inside about half of RIPTA’s fixed-route bus fleet. Lucinda Hitchcock, head of the Graphic Design Department at the Rhode Island School of Design, is also participating in the program, designing the inaugural poetry display. The first poem will be an excerpt from Walt Whitman’s Song of Myself and will be posted inside buses in September. Typically, the poems will be changed about once a month. October’s display will feature lines by the poet Joy Harjo. RIPTA, Cane and other guests will mark the launch of the program with a brief poetry reading outside Providence’s Rochambeau Library at 708 Hope Street at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, September 12, 2017. The public is invited to attend.
Cane, a published poet who was named Rhode Island’s State Poet Laureate by Governor Gina Raimondo in 2016, said she first became acquainted with the Poetry in Motion project when she was living in New York where she grew up. She thought it would be a great fit for Rhode Island and approached RIPTA with the idea. Cane is also founder and director of Writers-in-the-Schools RI, an educational program that places professional writers in public schools to support writing curriculum. “As Poet Laureate of Rhode Island, I approach my public post, in the words of June Jordan, as a “spirit task.” Poetry is good for the spirit and the citizen alike. Our public transit system seems to me a most perfect and egalitarian vehicle to disseminate poetry throughout our state. I have been wanting to do this for over a decade. I couldn’t be happier to see RIPTA put this project in motion,” said Cane whose latest book, Once More With Feeling, was published in February 2017.
Barbara Polichetti, Director of Public Affairs at RIPTA, said that the transit authority was immediately interested in the idea when approached by Cane. “All day long, our customers and the public in general are bombarded with information – from bus schedules to news bulletins,” she said. “But how often do they see something that touches them, makes them pause, or gives them a sense of unity with others? The more we read about the Poetry in Motion project in other communities, the more we felt that this would be a welcome offering to the public.”
Both Polichetti and Cane said that they hope to cultivate community involvement in the project – whether it is by featuring some work by Rhode Island poets or soliciting local artwork for the displays. The project has the support of the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts (RISCA) – a state agency supported by appropriations from the Rhode Island General Assembly and grants from the National Endowment for the Arts. RISCA provides grants, technical assistance and staff support to arts organizations and artists, schools, community centers, social service organizations and local governments to bring the arts into the lives of Rhode Islanders.
For more information on Poetry in Motion, visit: https://www.poetrysociety.org/psa/poetry/poetry_in_motion/
For more information on RIPTA services, visit RIPTA.com or call 401-781-9400.