Poetry on Buses: Your Body of Water


Title: Nigist Selfu, Yuping Kwan, Monique Franklin, Ranjit Kaur, Jacque Larrainzar, and Tracy Rector: 2016-2017 Community Liaisons.
Photo Credit: Tim Aguero
Lead Artist(s):

Poetry on Buses invites King County residents to create, share, and experience poetry on public transit, online, and in community. Dating back to 1992, Poetry on Buses was reimagined in 2014 to foster relationships with immigrant and undeserved communities, feature multiple languages, and transform the commute for culture—on bus and on smartphone. The 2016-18 program is first of its kind: multi-modal and featuring poetry in 9 languages. We hired six Community Liaisons to develop customized outreach strategies and co-develop 11 poetry workshops among African American, Chinese, Ethiopian, Punjabi, Spanish-speaking, and Indigenous communities. Multi-generational and varied in style, these workshops explored poetry and the “Your Body of Water” theme articulated by Jourdan Keith, a poet, water advocate, and our Poet Planner. While focused on individual communities, the project also reminds us of our interconnectedness, via water and the transit system. The workshops coincided with an open call for poems. More than 1,600 residents responded with 50-word poems on the theme. A diverse group of writers reviewed submissions in Amharic, Chinese, English, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, and Vietnamese (highest-need languages for Limited-English-Proficient populations in King County) and selected 365. A celebration at the historic Moore Theatre launched the Your Body of Water collection: 100+ poems on buses, light rail, and streetcars—thanks to new fiscal and programmatic partnerships with 6 transit and water stewardship agencies—and all 365 poems on poetryonbuses.org, debuting one every day for a year. With 7 fully outfitted Poetry Buses, Trains and Streetcars—no ads, all poems—and more poems strewn throughout the fleet, Poetry on Buses subverts advertisement with culture, and the placement of non-English poems provides a more inclusive record of local voices. Meanwhile, ongoing pop-up “Roadshow” readings on buses, trains and with community festivals bring these voices to life in urban and suburban King County.

Arts Center
Community Center
Public Space
Transit System
In addition to subverting advertisement with poetry placards and wraps on bus, light rail, and streetcar vehicles traveling throughout King County, poems are featured online at poetryonbuses.org. Community poetry workshops and “Roadshow” events are held in gathering places and at festivals identified by our Community Liaisons. The launch party for the program was held at the historic Moore Theatre.
Transit modes throughout King County, Washington
101 Prefontaine Pl S
Seattle, WA 98104
United States

click the map to enlarge

Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
King County Metro Transit
King County Department of Natural Resources & Parks: Water and Land Resources and Wastewater Treatment Divisons
Seattle Department of Transportation and Seattle Streetcar
Seattle Public Utilities
Sound Transit
Seattle Office of Arts & Culture
Intersection Media
Somelab, Timothy Aguero Photography
Marcela Barrientos, Ed Andrews (graphic and web design), Timothy Aguero (photography)

Digital, Mixed Media, Performance, Photography, Signage, Sound
Mixed Media, Photography, Sound
Words: this project is built on, around and for poems submitted by King County residents. Advertising placards and interior and exterior wraps: select poems were featured in place of advertisements on buses, light rail, and streetcar vehicles. Visual artworks (multimedia, 2D) exploring the theme “Your Body of Water” were also included. Website/Audio: the poems were also featured online, one per day for a full year. Over 50 poets were brought into a recording studio to produce professional audio of their poem being read.