Every year since 2009, Madison Metro Bus Transit and Madison’s poet laureate have called for poetry submissions to display on city buses. This year’s theme was “Imagine Madison” and writers were asked to describe what they wanted Madison to look like in the future.
The submissions range from short poems, haiku, prose poems or excerpts from longer poems. Only 25 out of 200 poems were selected and included both English and Spanish entries.
Poet laureat Oscar Mireles said people are often surprised how profound some of the younger writer’s poems are.
At a Wednesday reception, writers recited their poems and saw them in print for the first time.
The selected poems were forwarded to Edgewood College graphic design students in order to create illustrations. Mireles said this gave Edgewood College students the chance to practice working with a professional client and to see their work all over the city. Each student was able to pick the poem they believed they could best illustrate.
The poems will be featured on Metro Bus transit cards, ride guides and on the exterior of buses. The poems for this year are expected to start making appearances on bus exteriors in the middle of June.
According to Metro Marketing Specialist Jessy Stammer, people can expect to see these poems on 12 different buses. Since the buses do not have specific routes, they will be seen randomly.
“They're big and colorful… you can read them when you're in traffic behind the bus,” said Metro marketing manager Mick Rusch.
Some of the submissions were written in Spanish and although some riders might not understand them, Mireles said they won't be translated.
“We try to keep them in Spanish to remind people that a lot of people are bilingual,” said Mireles.
Mireles said illustrations will be able to help readers figure out what the poem is trying to convey.
Samuel Clark Gonzalez is a third-grader at Nuestro Mundo Community School. Gonzalez and his classmates submitted Spanish haiku poems and his was one of the finalists. His poem is about his experience when he first arrived in Madison.
“When I moved here from Colombia, we were exploring the city on the first day. I saw the Capitol building and I saw milk cows too,” said Gonzalez.
Gonzalez said he did not expect to be a finalist and was very excited when he found out about the news.
“All of my friends came, they gave me a hug and they lifted me up from the floor,” said Gonzalez
Gonzalez’s teacher, Sarah Niesen, remembers his teary eyes when he found out his poem had been selected.
“Everyone was giving him high fives, hugging him up and lifting him up," she said. "It was great to see."
Gonzalez said his family feels very proud of him and will be bringing 10 guests to the reception to show support.
Karl Duncan, a two-time finalist, has been living in Madison for about 15 years and said writing is his passion. Duncan wrote a short poem about his hope for Madison to become more of a city with less lights at night from the streets and buildings.
“By doing that, we might see further into the night sky, see more of the beauty of it. We may even see far enough to see other worlds and other worlds may see us…That's what this is about, putting down our lights and connecting with others,” said Duncan.
Duncan also hopes this project expands and he starts seeing poetry on downtown signs, sidewalks, and all over the city. He believes it’s an art that is not exposed enough.
Mireles said the community looks forward to the project every year because it gives riders a quick glimpse of motivation during their commute.