Home Arts for Transit For straphangers, Poetry in Motion returns

For straphangers, Poetry in Motion returns

by Benjamin Kabak

Graduation by Dorothea Tanning is the first in the newly revived Poetry In Motion series. (Courtesy of MTA Arts for Transit)

The MTA’s decision in 2008 to axe the Poetry in Motion displays turned out to be a rather unpopular one. Weary straphangers who enjoyed the whimsy or thoughtfulness of the rhyming subway placards bemoaned the disappearances of the poems, and the Train of Thought project that placed it never took off.

Today, nearly a year to the day since initial rumors resurfaced, New York City Transit announced the triumphant return of Poetry in Motion. The first verse of the new series, which I espied in a 3 train on Sunday, comes from Dorothea Tanning, a poet who passed away this January at age 101, and it is entitled “Graduation.”

“Our customers tell us again and again that even a small investment in art and music underground makes a huge difference to them,” MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota said in a statement. “It can really improve the entire experience of riding the subway. And the beauty of this program—and of poetry and art in general—is that it can really transport you.”

The MTA, along with the Poetry Society of America, announced today that the new program will be an expanded version of the old standby. The poems will incorporate images from the authority’s extensive Arts for Transit collection and will be available on everywhere from subway car palcards to MetroCards to the travel bulletins posted in subway stations across the city. Within the subway cars, the decorated posters will be in the shape of a square at eye level rather than in the rectangular space reserved for overhead placards.

“The artwork and the poetry are not meant to necessarily interpret each other but to create a dialog,” Sandra Bloodworth, Director of MTA Arts for Transit and Urban Design said. “You may experience them individually or as one. Each stands in its own right, yet they can be viewed in tandem. The interpretation is up to the individual, so we don’t expect everyone will experience the art or the poetry or the two together in the same way. It will be left to a multitude of interpretations.”

The authority said it will release the next poem in April and then offer up two new ones each season. Three million MetroCards per quarter will come adorned with the poems as well, and that total represents approximately 11 percent of all MetroCards sold each quarter. For more on the return of Poetry in Motion, check out Cldye Haberman’s paean to program.

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1 comment

Todd March 27, 2012 - 5:14 pm

I’m a fan of the Poetry in Motions. Can they replace those horrible in-car Tim Burton-esque drawings?


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