On Seattle’s Public Buses, Writing Home, Moving Poetry
BY RACHEL WALLACE
In Seattle, Wash., public bus passengers have the opportunity to get a special sense of community out of their commute. A local organization called 4Culture, which supports artists, preserves history, shares local heritage and organizes public art, launched the Poetry On Buses campaign this year, and has filled 125 public buses and bus stations with the words of local poets.
In addition to sending words across Kings County, the initiative will feature one new poem per day on their website for 365 days. The theme of the program for 2015 is “Writing Home.” Beyond filling Seattle with poetry, the project really brought the theme to life through writing workshops.
Prior to launching the buses, Poet Planner Roberto Ascalon worked with different groups to explore what home meant to them. Many poems included in the campaign were born in these writing workshops.
In keeping with the Writing Home theme, the workshops focused on the experiences of different immigrant groups in the Seattle area. Community liaisons were responsible for reaching out to the Russian, Somali, Latino and Vietnamese communities to participate in the workshops, fostering a true sense of a new writing community in Seattle. In the workshops, participants were free to explore poetry in their native language as well as in English.
Coupling the theme of Writing Home with the language and culture of immigrant communities has resulted in poems that reflect the unique and beautiful experience of leaving one home and finding another. Incorporating language even resulted in seven pieces of poetry in the authors’ native languages, which are translated on the Poetry On Buses website, a very innovative and interactive experience. When you get to the home page, you are greeted by the poem of the day, which slowly comes onto the screen line by line. Most days, the site offers some facts about the poet, and often you can hear audio of the poet reading their work. You can also sign up for a weekly email to bring a little poetry to your life, in case the buses in your city are not full of words.
Rachel Wallace is a graduate of the University of South Carolina, where she studied psychology, journalism, and warm weather. She recently moved back to her home state of New York to attend the Columbia Publishing Course and pursue a career in writing and editing. Some of her interests include poetry, hip-hip, yoga, and YouTube. She is adventurous when it comes to food and passionate about traveling. Her favorite places to be include London and the New York Renaissance Faire.
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