If any of you ever rode the bus in Seattle, you know that one of that city's gems is its program to put poetry on the bus.
Every year, a non-profit, in coordination with the City, announces a themed poetry competition, with a tight word limit. They work hard to get poets of all ages (i.e. work w/ local schools) to submit. They're up to receiving 3,000 entries a year!

They select a certain number, get a graphic artist to illustrate them in an interesting, thematic way, and then they rotate them through bus routes, so that I hardly ever saw the same one more than twice.

It was magic to get on the bus after work, with my soul sucked out and rained on, and be transformed by a short snippet of wisdom or humor or strange dreams.

Albuquerque has a sporadic past with poetry on its buses. One hero made it happen for years with a non-profit before getting tired. I even tried it once, getting the NHCC to coordinate w/ Dea Rankin at ABQRide.

Now that I'm riding the bus almost every day, seeing the same advertisements for local eateries and tatoo parlors, I'm desperate for a little inspiration.

The last time we tried, we had nothing like DCF to advertise for poems. I think this site could change anything, but maybe it's only me who wants wise words on a bus twice a day?

Here's a sample of Seattle's 2007 Poetry on the Bus competition:

When January Moves Through My Sleep

Winter tears the dresses
off her trees
and lets them burn bare
with a white fire.

She breathes a bored sigh
onto a mortal me.
Blowing me off
her white tablecloth.

And wonders at my tiny suffering.
And never falls in love.

Saren Richardson

You can read more of them (and learn more about the program) here:

Views: 43

Comment by Mikaela Renz-Whitmore on April 23, 2008 at 3:18pm
Not sure (website makes it really hard to find staff contact info ...) but you can start w/ customer service:

Nick Manole
Email nmanole@cabq.gov
Phone (505) 243-RIDE (7433)
Physical Address
100 1st Street SW
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87102

You can ask for a program manager? Or community outreach? Or worst-case scenario, ask for advertising...

Let us know what you hear!
Comment by Donny Ozmund on April 23, 2008 at 3:29pm
Perhaps the ABQ Poetry Slam group here on The Fix can help petition for poetry on the buses.
Comment by chantal on April 23, 2008 at 5:32pm
Surely I must have Greg Payne's email somewhere. We go way back ;-)
Comment by chantal on April 23, 2008 at 5:39pm
Ok, I sent Payne an email which will probably be routed through his secretary's secretary, but hey, I tried.

Love this idea, Mikaela! So glad you're reviving the call.
Comment by hettie on April 23, 2008 at 8:27pm
in scotland, the public buses had poetry by robert burns. it made the ride more enjoyable and was a cool way to educate people about some of scotland's cultural history (and the phonetic spellings of scottish pronunciation were mostly helpful, too). there's so much amazing new mexico poetry and art to choose from, prior to even holding a competition. this is a great idea!!
Comment by chantal on April 23, 2008 at 10:19pm
Get this: So I just heard back from Payne (checking his work email awfully late). Here's what he tells us:

"We will have a return of Poetry on the Bus. I'll follow up tomorrow with more. We'll shoot for the first part of June and would be open to suggestions for poets."

Rock on. This is stellar news. Here's hoping we learn how to submit poems and art tomorrow.
Comment by Mikaela Renz-Whitmore on April 24, 2008 at 8:56am
Thanks, Chantal!

Keep an eye out, everyone, and let us know what's up! I'm interested to know who will be running the program (so I can hoard in and make suggestions, of course!)...
Comment by chantal on April 28, 2008 at 12:05pm
Ok, here's what I got from Payne:

Dee Cawley (dcawley@cabq.gov -- 724-3100), Del Chavez and Bobby Sisneros (our graphics artist) are going to handle the project, although Dea Rankin will be giving them a hand as well.
What do you think about some sort of contest/competition as part of the selection process? Just a thought on how our budding poets get selected.
Comment by Mikaela Renz-Whitmore on April 28, 2008 at 1:01pm
Thanks for the update! Sounds great. I think there's an opportunity here for DCF to host the submissions-gathering for both poems and photos of Albuquerque to use as backdrops for the poetry. In 2005 we used one artist (fabulous), but how fun would it be to make it a photo/art competition, too?
Comment by Jeff Hartzer on June 17, 2008 at 12:12am
Glad Abq is now open to this!
I created BUS POETRY FOR PEOPLE that was seen on all of Pierce County Washington busses...Quite a wonderful thing...15 poems were picked and rotated through all bus routes over a year. Pierce County is below Seattle. Tacoma largest city. I still have the original bus placards for the project. We also put together a chapbook.

The good news then in Tacoma was that the CITY itself had an ARTS COMMISSION. When I created the project I was able to take it directly to them to make it all happen. When I moved to ABQ in 1985, I tried to do the same thing here...I went to many city groups including the Junior League at the time, but doors closed to the concept.

Things have changed a lot since 1985; glad to hear it and break a leg.


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