The Metropolitan Transportation Authority will use many instruments in coming weeks in its effort to restore religion in a subway system that has been seen as a vector for an infection.
But the company, it appears, may also make use of poetry.
The individuals who choose the verse routinely displayed inside subway automobiles as a part of the “Poetry in Motion” sequence are already fascinated with which works may carry up riders and communicate to the town’s place on the middle of a world disaster.
“We are very aware that when people begin using the subway and buses again in greater numbers there is going to be this sense of anxiety,” mentioned Matt Brogan, the manager director of the Poetry Society of America, which runs the subway program with the M.T.A. “The poems have always played a role in making the space welcoming.”
Sandra Bloodworth, the director of the M.T.A.’s arts and design program, mentioned that starting final month, folks concerned with Poetry in Motion started fascinated with how to ensure that the subsequent works are “thoughtful and mindful.”
Beyond parts of happiness, she mentioned, the brand new poems ought to replicate the complicated actuality introduced on by the coronavirus and the difficulties that the town has endured.
“What we present is more important than ever,” Ms. Bloodworth mentioned. “We knew it was going to be a daunting challenge to find just the right thing to speak to, but also to comfort, people.”
Nothing has been chosen but, however Mr. Brogan mentioned they have been in search of poems which may match the tone of “Separation” by W.S. Merwin, a three-line poem that has beforehand appeared within the subway.
Your absence has gone by means of me
Like thread by means of a needle.
Everything I do is stitched with its shade.
“It’s a beautiful poem,” he mentioned “But also really powerful at this moment because it’s about what happens when you’re absent from others and what you take with you.”
The Poetry in Motion challenge started in 1992 with 4 works. One was an excerpt from “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry” by Walt Whitman, that described a 19th-century journey throughout the East River and included the traces — “And you that shall cross from shore to shore years therefore are extra to me, and extra in my meditations, than you may suppose” — that appeared to communicate immediately to modern commuters.
Mr. Brogan mentioned the society seems for works which can be not more than 10 or 12 traces and that each subway rider would have the ability to admire. They have steered away from poems which can be recondite whereas avoiding something that smacks of greeting card sentiment. It’s necessary that the choices have depth, Mr. Brogan mentioned, including: “Many of the most complex poems are written in the most simple and colloquial language.”
Over the years poems from this system have appeared in transit techniques in additional than 30 cities. These days it’s energetic in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Nashville and Providence. More than 200 poems and excerpts by writers together with Shakespeare, Henry David Thoreau, Sylvia Plath and Robert Frost have been displayed in New York subway automobiles, Mr. Brogan mentioned. The Poetry Society and the M.T.A. collaborate on selecting the poems, and since 2012 the M.T.A. has paired every poem with artwork from its everlasting assortment to make the posters which can be put in inside trains.
The goal, Mr. Brogan mentioned, is to present an illuminating expertise and alternative to pause in an surroundings the place riders usually really feel distracted or rushed.
In its earlier years, the poetry program didn’t shy from messages that would sometimes be grim. At one level, as an illustration, it printed an excerpt from “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats, including the lines:
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
But in 2014 the authority and the Poetry Society began focusing more on works that communicated discovery and joy, Ms. Bloodworth said.
Some poems that have appeared in New York City, like “Grand Central” by Billy Collins, and “Awaking in New York,” by Maya Angelou, were chosen because they were likely to be meaningful to local riders.
Others have universality, said Mr. Brogan, and have appeared on trains or buses across the country. One that has appeared in more than a dozen cities including New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Missoula, Mont., is “Luck” by Langston Hughes.
That poem was something of a model for the program, Mr. Brogan said, because it “condenses and crystallizes” an experience, adding: “It’s a poem about joy and how it comes to you.”
The Poetry Society and the M.T.A. have heard from riders who have been moved by poems. Mr. Brogan said that a woman once approached Poetry Society members at the Brooklyn Book Festival and described to them how she helped her young son sound out poems each morning on the train. Ms. Bloodworth said that the poem “Heaven” by Patrick Phillips, which includes the lines “It will be the past./We’ll all go back together.” had elicited a particularly strong response.
Generally, two new poems are introduced into the subway system every few months. The next pair may appear this summer, Ms. Bloodworth said. Mr. Brogan said that he and his colleagues at the Poetry Society would be looking for works that include a sense of solace and, perhaps, that evoke the feeling of having come through adversity.
“People are crowded into the subway, they’re going to work and they’ve got other things going on in their lives,” he said. “And we’re trying to bring a kind of bright moment into their day.”