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Enjoy a collection of poetry and other word artistry curated by WNPR.

Hartford's 'Poetry Bus': A Moving Piece Of Public Art

Charter Oak Cultural Center
CTtransit's "Poetry Bus"

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 high

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 websitethat 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.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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