Poetry in motion: Local poets’ work appears on public buses

i Aug 18th 2016

By Rachel Holly, Wilkes-Barre Citizens’ Voice

The next time you need to board public transit in Wilkes-Barre, there will be some local poetry there to make the ride a little more enjoyable.

The “Poetry in Transit” initiative, spearheaded by Mischelle Anthony, Ph.D., of Wilkes University, is in its 10th year of making the Luzerne County Transportation Authority buses a more engaging place to be.

“This year’s theme was ‘Flood,’” Anthony said. She is the coordinator for the project, as well as the chair of the English department at Wilkes.

“For some, they took a more literal approach, discussing the flooding that affected the Wilkes-Barre area like Agnes or in 2011, but I left it as broadly defined as I could. For some it involved a flood of friendship, emotion, love,” she said.

This year’s project received more than 30 submissions from local poets of all ages, ranging from “age 8 to 80,” according to Anthony. From there, the poems are vetted by a jury of five professors from five local institutions — Wilkes, King’s College, Misericordia University, Penn State Wilkes-Barre and Luzerne County Community College — where “if they get three ‘yes’ votes, they are accepted,” Anthony said.

The poems will then be featured in the interior of multiple local buses, visible to those catching a ride.

“Many people think the poems are on the outside of the bus, like where Carrie from ‘Sex in the City’ sees her face,” Anthony said with a laugh. “If we tried something like that, it’d cost us at least $50,000. Our poems are inside so people can read it.”

Sara Pisak, 24, of Sugarloaf Township, is one of the poets featured in this year’s “Poetry in Transit.” Her piece, “Saturated,” focused on imagery surrounding a child’s growth chart as a marker for the floodwaters.

“Being restricted to six lines only, I tried to pack as much imagery into a short poem as I could,” Pisak said. She is a recent Class of 2016 Wilkes graduate, who majored in English literature and creative writing.

“I wanted to focus on the classic literature theme of ‘innocence versus experience’ and highlight the experience of the flood in that way,” she said.

Another local poet is Crestwood High School senior Maddy Blake, 17. Despite her age, Blake is an accomplished poet in her own right — a two-time “Poetry in Transit” veteran and long-time creative writer.

“With this year’s theme being ‘flood,’ I was far too young to remember Agnes, so I chose to attack it from a much broader topic, bringing hope,” she said.

Blake, who plans on enlisting in the Army after her final high school year, loves the uniqueness brought by the project that she believes “is missing from many other art endeavors.”

“With ‘Poetry in Transit,’ you’re reaching an audience you never would’ve normally gotten,” she said. “Typically, with art-related things, you have the same crowd attending and patronizing … With this, it’s exposing a brand new group of people each and every day to the writing, and it’s awesome that it’s in public spaces like this.”

If you go

WHAT: “Poetry in Transit”

WHEN: 5 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Barnes & Noble, 7 S. Main St., Wilkes-Barre

DETAILS: Authors contributing to the “Poetry in Transit” program will read their work at the event. Their poems will be on display in Luzerne County Transportation Authority buses for the next year, with a monthly rotation so riders can see all poems over time. The theme for the 2016 program is “Flood.”