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Poetry back in motion on the subway

<p><span style="font-family: calibri">Straphangers' pleas for more service and lower fares may go unheeded, but the MTA has decided to reward riders with rhymes.</span></p><p><span style="font-family: calibri">&nbsp;</span></p>

Straphangers' pleas for more service and lower fares may go unheeded, but the MTA has decided to reward riders with rhymes.

After a four-year hiatus, the MTA and the Poetry Society of America announced yesterday they are re-introducing "Poetry In Motion," the program that brought sonnets to the subway from 1992 until 2008.

“I don’t think riders are clamoring for this, but they do appreciate it,” said MTA board member Allen Cappelli.

In their last installment, poems were presented in the overhead advertising spaces on subway cars, but this time, the MTA has chosen a more prominent position for them. The MTA plans to not only put the poems in the prominent square poster spaces at eye level of seated passengers, but also pair them with artwork and feature them on MetroCards too.

The prose will even appear in animated sequences on the MTA’s “On the Go!” travel stations, which have been installed in Grand Central Terminal, Pennsylvania Station, Bowling Green, Atlantic Av-Pacific St, and Jackson Heights-Roosevelt Av.

“Our customers tell us again and again that even a small investment in art and music underground makes a huge difference to them,” said MTA Chairman Joseph J. Lhota. “It can really improve the entire experience of riding the subway. And the beauty of this program—and of poetry and art in general—is that it can really transport you.”

“There are still other things that we need, but I wouldn’t turn it down,” said Bill Henderson of the MTA's Permanent Citizens Advisory Committee “(The MTA) has limitations on what they can do and they’re trying to find things that they can accomplish that will benefit the riders.”

The Straphanger’s Campaign, a transit advocacy group, and several other groups put pressure on the MTA to keep the program going after it ended.

“It’s one of the few things the MTA does that creates good will,” Gene Russinaoff of the Straphanger's Campaign said.

Poetry that moves New York

The first poem to be included is “Graduation,” by Dorothea Tanning, who passed away in January at the age of 101.

The poem reads:

“He told us, with the years, you will come

to love the world.

And we sat there with our souls in our laps,

and comforted them.”

“‘Graduation,’ speaks to the uncertainties of youth, to a mixture of skepticism and trust, and expresses a wistfulness about beginnings,” said Alice Quinn, executive director of the Poetry Society of America. “The timing seemed great for this poem as so many all over the city will be graduating from one place or another all through May and June when the poem is up, a moment of embarkation Tanning's poem delicately enshrines.”

The next poem will be released in April and the MTA will present two poems each season. The poems will be printed on the backs of three million MetroCards per quarter, which is approximately 11 percent of the 27 million MetroCards sold each quarter.

For more local news, follow Emily Anne Epstein on Twitter @EmilyAEpstein.

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