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Missed the Bus? At Least You Caught These Poems

To celebrate year 15 of 'Poetry in Transit,' we offer some locally sourced verse you could be reading while riding.

By Katie Hyslop 23 Feb 2011 |

Katie Hyslop reports on education for the Tyee Solutions Society, and is a freelance reporter for a number of other outlets including The Tyee.

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South Granville area, Vancouver. Photo courtesy of zeezodean from Your BC: The Tyee’s Photo Pool.

Alfred Denis Godley was onto something when he combined poetry with public transit in his famous poem "Motor Bus":

"What is this that roareth thus? Can it be a Motor Bus?"

But though it's been just shy of a hundred years since the Oxford scholar wrote this humourous verse -- admittedly known more for its mix of English and Latin than its celebration of busses -- B.C. Transit and the Association of Book Publishers of BC are still celebrating the marriage of verse with vehicles with the 15th year of their Poetry in Transit program. Adopting a form of public poetry that began on the London underground 25 years ago, the program replaces advertisement banners on busses urging no to drugs, or yes to shopping at YVR, with poems by B.C. bards encouraging nothing but forgetting the grind of the daily commute and escaping into your mind, your imagination. To mark the anniversary The Tyee is featuring some of the poems found on busses and Sky trains in Metro Vancouver this year, which will move on to Victoria and other B.C. cities in 2012 when a new crop of poems will be harvested for the Translink fleet. So sit back, take your eyes off the road, and read a little.

The Beauty of Men (From Turn Left to the Ladies, Palimpest Press, 2009)

By Kate Braid

It is not violence but muscle—the force to do—

curled and bent and burning


They deny it. Hide it. Rip it out

with hammers and knives and guns, even crosses

if they have to.

These are the signs of the beauty of men:

set jaw, the shimmer of muscle

eager to lift beyond any limit, lost

in the wild pleasure of motion. They will move the world

with their own two hands, force it if they have to, doing

what mere thought didn't know had to be done.

Kate Braid is the author of A Well-Mannered Storm: The Glenn Gould Poems, Covering Rough Ground, To This Cedar Fountain and Inward to the Bones: Georgia O'Keeffe's Journey with Emily Carr. In 2005 she co-edited with Sandy Shreve, In Fine Form: The Canadian Book of Form Poetry. Braid's second book of poems about her carpentry experiences Turning Left to the Ladies is published by Palimpsest Press. She lives in Burnaby, B.C. with her partner.

An Excerpt From Fidelity (From 4 Poets, Mother Tongue Publishing, 2009)

By Al Rempel

you could steer the course of the universe, guitar strings zinging,

the double-thump of the bass-drum deep inside your chest-box,

the imagined mess of metal and dash-board plastic and birch-bark,

and the flip-over tumble between a blur and black-out,

the wheel on the driver's side spun free of bone-on-bone

and the hard-hallowed socket of reason, yet somehow you pulled

it back, mom said it was angels, but she always says that,

dad said why the devil didn't you keep your eyes on the road, mom said

leave it alone or he'll cry and you – you were still shaking on the davenport

craving a smoke and not wanting to think about it, or go there, instead

wanting to push it off, to take the keys off the hook, to take another spin

around the block first chance you got—to drive like nothing ever happened.

Al Rempel's books of poetry are understories(Caitlin Press, 2010) and a chapbook,The Picket Fence Diaries (Lipstick Press, 2010). His poems have also appeared in The Malahat Review, Grain, CV2, and Event. He's been published in various online publications and anthologies, including Rocksalt and 4 Poets. He is currently an alternate teacher in Prince George, B.C.

Foul Bay at 2 AM (From Hymn, Brick Books, 2009)

By John Barton

Soundlessly the clam diggers flicker down stairs hanging

against grey cliffs sunk low into ebb tide, lamps strapped

to hard hats as they descend in procession, holy miners

of night, the only noise a tingle of spades inside empty steel pails, a flinty inner echo of quiet, the wind's

sandpaper lifting mist from the sky, starlight flinted

against the moon’s albino, half-shut eye, clam diggers walking

into the sea, the stars soluble, phosphorescent, unclaimed.

John Barton studied poetry with Gary Geddes, Eli Mandel, Robin Skelton, Daniel Halpern, and Joseph Brodsky, and since 1980, his poems have appeared in over thirty anthologies and seventy-five magazines across Canada and in the United States, Australia, India, and the United Kingdom. He co-edited Arc: Canada's National Poetry Magazine, and Vernissage: The Magazine of the National Gallery of Canada, was poetry editor for Winnipeg's Signature Editions, and the 28th writer in residence at the Saskatoon Public Library. He lives in Victoria, B.C. where he is the editor of The Malahat Review.

An Excerpt From The Wake (From Living Under Plastic, Oolichan Books, 2010)

By Evelyn Lau

On our last walk along the seawall,

you stopped mid-sentence

to watch a heron pass us in flight.

Isn't she beautiful, you whispered –

the stone span of her wings, textured like granite – and I looked, and looked again,

and saw, like those hours in your lamplit office,

the gold light falling all around us.

Evelyn Lau is the author of four volumes of poetry, two works of non-fiction, two short story collections and a novel. Runaway: Diary of a Street Kid, published when she was 18, was a Canadian best seller and was made into a CBC movie. Her prose books have been translated into a dozen languages worldwide, and she is the winner of the Milton Acorn People’s Poetry Award; four Western Magazine Awards and a National Magazine Award; the Air Canada Award for Most Promising Writer; and the Vantage Women of Originality Award. She presently freelances as a mentor to aspiring writers through UBC’s Booming Ground and SFU’s Writing and Publishing Program.

The First Snowfall with Horsechild (From Skin Like Mine, Ronsdale Press, 2010)

By Garry Gottfriedson

in the Moon following the blood-telling stories

the dry-meat racks will once again be heavy

and the geese will have become memory

as was the time you heard your name whispered

the trees will again be naked

and the skin upon our Mother will tighten

Horsechild, your fur will thicken

and warmth will calm you

fighting the anxiety in your weary eyes,

for the first snow will lift your spirit

the Winter Dance Singers will offer their voices

to shroud our bodies with protection

as we await the fury of Old Man Winter

Stomp-Dancing his way South

Garry Gottfriedson, from the Secwepemc FirstNnation (Shuswap), was born, raised and lives in Kamloops, B.C. A self-employed rancher with a masters degree in education from Simon Fraser University, Gottfriedson was awarded the Gerald Red Elk Creative Writing Scholarship by the Naropa Institute in Boulder, CO, where he studied under Allen Ginsberg, Anne Waldman, and Marianne Faithful. His published works include In Honor of Our Grandmothers: Imprints of Cultural Survival (Thetus Books, 1994), 100 Years of Contact (Secwepemc Cultural Education Society, 1990), Glass Tepee (Thistledown Press, 2002), Painted Pony (Partners in Publishing, 2005), Whiskey Bullets (Ronsdale, 2006), and Skin Like Mine (Ronsdale, 2010).  [Tyee]

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