Vancouverites talk about Vancouver’s transit system about as much as they do about the weather. Usually not in glowing terms. This year though there is something to celebrate, as it marks the 20th anniversary of one of the more esoteric parts of our public transportation system, Poetry in Transit.
Operating since 1996, Poetry in Transit is the longest running program of its kind in Canada, having featured hundreds of poems from established and emerging BC poets on buses and in SkyTrain cars in place of the usual commercial advertising.
“It was poet Sandy Shreve who conceived of the project, approaching TransLink with the idea, and later the Association of Book Publishers of British Columbia, about getting involved in administering the project. The ABPBC proudly continues this work,” says executive director, Margaret Reynolds.
To be eligible, poems must be written by B.C. writers and published in book form by a Canadian publisher. Poems are submitted by publishers for consideration in the project in May of each year. The works are selected by a jury comprised of a poet, a representative of TransLink, and an industry professional.
“Over the years, the program has been incredibly popular,” says Reynolds. “We get many calls at the office from people wanting to find the books that the poems come from.”
Poetry in Transit has also found a life beyond the buses and Skytrain cars as Reynolds highlights stories of a teacher who took a class on a transit field-trip, and a couple who incorporated a poem they read on SkyTrain into their marriage ceremony.
“Poetry in Transit has truly entered the lives of British Columbians,” says Reynolds.
To commemorate the anniversary, Poetry in Transit will celebrate with a reading of 20 poems as part of this year’s Word Vancouver.
The 20th anniversary celebration of Poetry in Transit takes place on Wednesday, September 21. Visit http://wordvancouver.ca for more information.