If there’s one thing that can be said about poetry, it is amorphous. Poetry can be a song lyric on the radio, a rhyme on the inside of a birthday card or if you’re a regular public transport user, that poster facing you on your commute to work.
Next time you’re on Dublin’s DART system, you might just notice a piece of poetry to brighten up your journey. “Poetry on the Dart” follows on from the success of “Poetry on the Underground”, which began in London in 1986. Judith Chernaik, an American writer came up the idea to publish poems on board the Tube in order to bring poetry to a more public platform. In Dublin, the scheme has been running on the DART for over twenty years and has since been adopted in major cities such as New York, Paris, Detroit and Dallas.
The idea is simple. Poems are chosen for inclusion on the programme and published onboard the train carriages for a number of months. The result? Commuters can take a minute out of their rush to or from work or school or college and read some poetry. The poems are generally short and relatively simple, straightforward enough to be enjoyed, no matter how short a DART trip. Poems range from the traditional to the contemporary with poets like Emily Dickenson, William Shakespeare, W.H Auden and W.B Yeats all appearing in carriages over the years.
In 2009, to mark the 25thanniversary of the DART service, Irish Rail ran a competition for all budding poets to have their poems published on the Dublin trains. Poems had to be previously unpublished, written by an Irish citizen and have a thematic connection to rail travel, or the DART to qualify. The winners were awarded €500 by Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney. The poems appeared for a number of months on all DART trains. The winners of the competitions were Cecilia McGovern from Dublin, for her poem entitled “It is Dangerous to Lean Out”, Eamonn Bonner from Letterkenny, Co. Donegal, for “Climbing Out The Window” and John O’Donnell, from Dublin, for “The Blue Man.” The judging panel was made up of Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Louis de Paor and Moya Cannon.
Books of poems from both the London Underground and the DART have been published. In Ireland, ‘Between the lines: Poems on the Dart‘ is edited by Jonathan Williams and published by Lilliput Press. See www.lilliputpress.ie for details or click on the ‘Between the Lines’ cover.
“Poems on the Underground” is a collection of poems published on the London Underground ,edited by Gerard Benson, Judith Chernaik and Cicely Herbert and can be bought from the London Transport Museum shop www.ltmuseumshop.co.uk