Poetry in Motion

Those of us who regularly ride the subways in New York know that it’s a strictly utilitarian experience; a massive transit system that moves millions of commuters around every day, across 300 square miles. Many of the train cars are drab as hell, very old, with zero aesthetic value. It’s not an atmosphere in which you expect to find inspiration. But occasionally, among the repetitive advertisement placards for personal injury lawyers, laser hair removal, and Homeland Security “If you see something, say something” slogans, a spot of artistic expression appears, thanks to the MTA’s “Poetry in Motion” project.

As I rode the train to Brooklyn recently for an art modeling job, I was moved by this pithy little gem from the American poet Galway Kinnell. It was mounted at the end corner of the train car near the doors. Something came over me, and I felt like I was falling in love. I typed the poem into my phone as a text message to myself so I could bring it with me.

Hide-and-Seek 1933, by Galway Kinnell

Once when we were playing
hide-and-seek and it was time
to go home, the rest gave up
on the game before it was done
and forgot I was still hiding.
I remained hidden as a matter
of honor until the moon rose.

What is it about this lovely poem that resonates with me so much? Perhaps that it’s a childhood recollection, something that I generally respond to, and I loved hide-and-seek as a little girl. One of my favorite games. Or maybe it’s the “matter of honor” in a little boy’s mind to respect the rules of the game, to carry out his commitment, and to not allow his quitter friends to influence him. He would rather defer to the poetic supremacy of the moon to give him his cues. I love it.

Boys Playing, by Victor Gabriel Gilbert:

10 thoughts on “Poetry in Motion

  1. kdmedina says:

    This time of year that truly resonates. I grew up when we could roam freely in our play.

    I hope you are well! The Dodgers can’t win a game to save their lives, but had a huge lead. Never saw such a big shift.

    Cheers!

    • artmodel says:

      Ken,

      The Dodgers definitely picked the worst time of the season to have a slump! Cleveland, whoa. Crazy. But hey, this is baseball as you well know. Hang in there!

      Thanks for commenting.

      Claudia

  2. Not just New York City. We saw poetry on buses in Seattle.

    http://poetryonbuses.org/

    • artmodel says:

      malefiguredrawingmodel,

      Very cool! Yes there are many poetry/arts in transit projects in cities around the world. It’s a wonderful idea.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Claudia

  3. artmodelandrew says:

    Hey, where did you get that picture of me and my friends? Actually I never wore shorts as a little kid, most likely because I would have been completely consumed by mosquitos where I lived.

    That poem is amusing because it deals with a very serious ethical dilemma for a four-year-old (integrity of the game versus obedience to parents) that seems quite silly as an adult. It’s a good choice for the subway because it is short, anyone can relate to it, and it offers a calming respite from the commotion and stress of life in the big city.

    • artmodel says:

      Andrew,

      Rampant mosquitoes here too, and I wear shorts anyway, and get bitten, because I’m obstinate like that 😆
      The poem was indeed a calming respite on my subway ride. It was also accompanied by a really nice work of art on the poster. I should have taken a picture.

      Thanks for your comments!

      Claudia

  4. Jennifer says:

    Thanks for sharing! Yes, can imagine that brightened a subway journey. I’m not sure whether my kids played hide and seek when they were young (will have to ask them!), but I certainly did, in the garden and out on the estate at the back of my house (though was never left out till the moon rose!). Lovely to have those memories brought back 🙂 And well done for finding a painting to accompany it! best wishes Jennifer

    • artmodel says:

      Jennifer,

      I’m happy you enjoyed the post! I’ve been feeling so nostalgic lately, I’m not sure why. Hide-and-seek is such a simple, innocent kids’ game. I was actually pretty terrible at it but I didn’t care. I would always crack up with giggling laughter when I got found! For the artwork, I thought about using a moonrise image to emphasize that aspect of the poem, but this painting of the little boys seemed to work well.

      Thanks for commenting, and great to hear from you!

      Claudia

  5. Bill says:

    If it had happened to me, I can picture myself in therapy years later. “But Doc, they didn’t even look for me! The moon didn’t rise for 4 days because of the snowstorm . . . ” It just gets worse from there.

    But, all kidding aside, it is great that they’re putting these poems on the subway — I’m sure that it does brighten up the commute quite a bit.

    • artmodel says:

      Bill,

      I can relate to your therapy scenario more than you know! Then again, adulthood provides more than enough fodder for psych sessions, at least for me. Grownups .. ugh! 😉

      Yes, the subway poetry is a refreshing sight on the trains. There should be more of it though.

      Thanks for commenting!

      Claudia

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