For almost 30 years (give or take one notable gap), Poetry In Motion has been one of the most wonderful ongoing MTA programs, in which snippets of poems are placed in subway cars and digital screens in stations throughout the system to give straphangers thoughtful, meditative things to read while in commute. The MTA has announced the latest two poems to become a part of the series: "Smelling the Wind" by Audre Lorde and "A Night in a World" by Heather McHugh.
MTA Arts & Design writes that the two poems were chosen in collaboration with the Poetry Society of America, and "speak eloquently to the hearts and minds of New Yorkers" during the pandemic.
“The poems by Audre Lorde and Heather McHugh remind us of the joy to be found in discovery and connection — with other people and with the natural world,” said Matt Brogan, Executive Director of Poetry Society of America. “They are poems about ‘traveling out,’ whether to the distant stars or the face ‘on my horizon,’ poems that celebrate how love and the imagination can traverse the ‘marvelous arithmetics of distance.'"
You can see the designs for the poems as they'll appear in the subway here—the Lorde one features a portrait of the poet taken from “Beacons” (see up above), a mosaic artwork by Rico Gatson permanently installed at the 167th Street station in the Bronx. The McHugh one is paired with “Edges of a South Brooklyn Sky” (2018), an artwork by Sally Gil which is permanently installed at the Avenue U station in Brooklyn.
Lorde, who was born in Harlem and served as poet laureate of New York from 1991-1992, published 11 volumes of poetry and five works of prose before her death in 1992; she also taught at John Jay College of Criminal Justice and Hunter College. McHugh, 72, has written nine volumes of poetry and was on the short list of nominees for the Pulitzer Prize.
Past Poetry In Motion poets who have been featured include such luminaries as John Ashbury, Marie Howe, Tina Chang, Kay Ryan, Galway Kinnell, Jean Valentine, Charles Simic, W.S. Merwin, Tracy K. Smith, Maya Angelou, Seamus Heaney, and so many more—you can check them all out here.