Poetry in Motion

Poetry in Motion® places poetry in the transit systems of cities throughout the country exposing it to millions of viewers every day. It was launched by MTA New York City Transit and the Poetry Society of America in 1992. It currently appears in Los Angeles, Nashville, Providence, San Francisco, and New York City.

The first four poems to appear with the launch of the program in New York City were an excerpt from "Crossing Brooklyn Ferry" by Walt Whitman, "Hope is the Thing with Feathers" by Emily Dickinson, "When You Are Old" by William Butler Yeats, and "Let There Be New Flowering" by Lucille Clifton.

For the first nine years of the program’s existence, the poems appeared on overhead "car cards" under a specially designed masthead featuring a historic station mosaic from a number of subway stations. To celebrate the tenth anniversary in 2002, a new masthead was introduced with elements from "Una Raza, Un Mundo, Universo" (One Race, One World, One Universe), an MTA-commissioned mosaic mural by the artist Jose Ortega at the 149th Street subway station on the 2 and 5 lines.

By 2002, Poetry in Motion had displayed more than 150 poems or excerpts by writers from around the world spanning 25 centuries, from the Chinese poet Lao Tzu to the contemporary Russian poet Vera Pavlova. In 2008, Poetry in Motion was replaced temporarily by Train of Thought, a program of prose excerpts. By then it had presented more than 200 poems nonstop across the MTA's 5000-square-mile travel region.

Poetry in Motion was reborn in March 2012 under the auspices of MTA Arts & Design, once again in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America. The revived program appears on larger "premium square" car cards under a new logo. Working with MTA’s chief designer, the poems are presented with details from artwork that has been installed throughout the MTA system, creating synergy between the disciplines.

The inaugural poster in the new series, which rolled out across the transit system on May 27, 2010, 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 program selects and displays two poems each quarter, eight per year, on New York City Transit subways.

Since the launch of the Poetry in Motion program in New York City it has inspired unique Poetry in Motion programs in appeared in over 30 cities across the country including: Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Boise, Boston, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, East Lansing, Fresno, Fort Collins, Hartford, Houston, Jacksonville, Little Rock, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Missoula, Nashville, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, the Pioneer Valley, Portland (both Oregon and Maine), Providence, Salt Lake City, the Twin Cities, and Washington D. C.

Poetry in Motion® is a registered trademark of MTA New York City Transit and the Poetry Society of America.

Explore more of Poetry in Motion® here.