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Arts for Transit and Urban Design

Poetry in Motion

It would have pleased Walt Whitman, that poet of urban motion, to envision his words coursing by electrified rail through a diverse, global city of 8 million souls.

Since 1992, when it first displayed an excerpt from Whitman's "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry," MTA's Poetry in Motion program has brought more than 200 poems or excerpts before the eyes of millions of subway riders and rail commuters, offering each a moment of timelessness in the busy day.

After a hiatus of four years, from 2008 through 2011, the popular program returned in March of 2012, under the aegis of Arts for Transit. The revived program displays two new poems each quarter, on "car cards" in the New York City subway cars. The poems are chosen in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America; submissions are not accepted.

The artwork accompanying the poems is drawn from permanent installations on view in the Arts for Transit program, often based on the sketches provided by the artists in their preparatory designs. Poems in the series also appear on the reverse sides of MetroCards, on the MTA's On-the-Go touch-screen kiosks, and in other transit venues.

The inaugural poster in the new series, which rolled out across the transit system on March 27, 2012, combined art from "The Flora of Bensonhurst," by Joan Linder, installed at the 71st subway station in Brooklyn, with the poem "Graduation," by Dorothea Tanning, an American poet, writer, and visual artist who died at the age of 101, in January 2012, at her home in Manhattan.

The second poem in the series was released in honor of Poem in Your Pocket Day on April 26, 2012 where it was announced that "Poetry in Motion" will also be seen in New York City taxi cabs. Written by poet Aracelis Girmay, "Noche de Lluvia, San Salvador" is accompanied by colorful artwork detail from the mosaic artwork "Stream" by Elizabeth Murray which was created for the 23rd St - Ely Avenue station in Long Island City.

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