Metrobus’ slogan, “Get on, be moved" is now even more appropriate — and in more ways than one.
The latest installment of Metroverse, a project which will see the work of 16 local poets on buses around the city, was launched with a reception at St. John’s City Hall Monday evening.
Agnes Walsh, Mark Callanan, George Murray, Robin McGrath, Helen Porter, even Ron Hynes; some of the province's most popular poets will have excerpts from their work displayed on ad posters inside the buses, rotating in groups of four over the next year.
Metroverse is part of an international “poetry in motion” movement, bringing poetry to public transit.
Facilitated in St. John’s by a partnership between the city, Metrobus, the Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Canada Council for the Arts, the last installment of Metroverse was in 2005.
To be eligible this year, poets must be residents of the province and their poems must have been previously published.
Poems were chosen by a committee led by St. John’s poet laureate Tom Dawe.
Most of the Metroverse pieces are excerpts of six lines or less — Ron Hynes’ piece, for example, comes from his song, “The St. John’s Waltz:” “Oh the harbour lights are gleaming, and the evening’s still and dark, and the seagulls are all dreaming seagull dreams on Amherst Rock.”
A piece from Murray’s book “Glimpse: Selected Aphorisms” is there in full: “Justice is never black and white, except on cop cars and killer whales.”
“We now have poetry on the buses that will hopefully provide a sense of joy, of knowledge, of appreciation, of solace, because all of these things come from poetry,” Mayor Dennis O’Keefe said at the launch.
For Metrobus general manager Judy Powell, it’s all about giving riders a more enjoyable experience, while exposing poets to an audience that might not otherwise be inclined to read poetry.
Each poster includes information on where to find the poem in full, and Powell’s hoping some riders might be inspired to seek the piece out, or even write their own poetry.
Callanan appreciates the accessibility the project brings to local poems.
“To have it on buses kind of normalizes it,” he explained. “You’re not doing anything else. You’re sitting there. You’ve got to wait for your destination, so you’re the perfect audience, in a way. Hopefully it might convert some people who are travelling on buses. I’m the sort of person who reads cereal boxes while I’m eating cereal — you put it in front of me, I’ll read it. With poetry, the more, the better.”