Poetry by young Hartford-area writers is reaching a wider readership -- on a CTtransit Bus.
The “Poetry Bus” will inspire riders for the next few weeks with excerpts of poems written by students who participate in creative writing classes at the Charter Oak Cultural Center’s Youth Arts Institute. The poems form a graphic display on the outside of the bus.
Charter Oak teaching artist Melanie Faranello came up with the idea for this “moving” piece of public art.
“For the poems that we used on the bus, the prompt was from a tribute poem about Frederick Douglass by Robert Hayden,” said Faranello. “So we studied Frederick Douglass and the poem by Hayden, and they wrote in response to that poem.”
Faranello says the younger students worked collectively on a poem, while the older students submitted individual poems that are now displayed on CTtransit bus 1732. The poetry touches on the themes of freedom, peace and justice, like this excerpt by 13-year-old poet Vida Ntem-Mensah.
Of righteousness where the
truth is served every time
Of awareness where you
learn and teach
Of honesty where you don’t
resent the cold truth
Of education where you can
expect greatness every time
Of non-bias where you don't
look at someone and play a
guessing game with their life
Of freedom where we can
walk with our heads held
Susan Mazer, director of the Youth Arts Institute, said after a rough COVID year, the Poetry Bus was the perfect project for the students.
“Because it was a way to make our kids shine. And to let them know that their voices count and that they’re heard,” said Mazer.
Faranello hopes the Poetry Bus brings a creative element for regular CTtransit passengers.
“I’m hoping seeing the poems will inspire riders to write a poem in response to the students’ poems,” said Faranello. “I put a call out on my website that if anyone is inspired to respond to the poems and write their own, then I would post them.”
The Poetry Bus will be running routes in the Hartford area through June 6. The students’ full poems can be read at poetryonthestreets.com.