Culture

Athens Public Transit's new " On the Bus" features a typographic interpretation of poet Wendy McVicker's poem "In Summer." (Daniel Rader/WOUB)
Athens Public Transit's new " On the Bus" features a typographic interpretation of poet Wendy McVicker's poem "In Summer." (Daniel Rader/WOUB)

Poetry in Motion: Athens Public Transit Features Local Verse

By:
Posted on:

< < Back to

Ohio University Homecoming Weekend is here, with posters and throwback photos advertising the “Same Bricks, Different Stories” theme.

Coincidentally, even more stories are hitting those brick streets this week. Literally, whenever an Athens Public Transit bus rolls by.

On the Bus is a new program that merges public transportation and poetry, featuring typographic interpretations of poems on the side of a city bus and continues inside on the windows. The design team — accompanied by a representative of Athens Public Transit and Mayor Paul Wiehl, among others — unveiled the first bus Thursday afternoon at an official ceremony.

Molly Schoenhoff talks to the public about the "On the Bus" program outside OU's Baker Center on Thursday, Oct. 08, 2015. (Daniel Rader/WOUB)
Molly Schoenhoff talks to the public about the “On the Bus” program outside OU’s Baker Center on Thursday, Oct. 08, 2015. (Daniel Rader/WOUB)

“Poetry and design and art are all emergent processes. This is very much an emergence of something very different than what any of us could have predicted,” said Molly Schoenhoff, director of the project and graphic designer. She later added that “poetry is a really perfect language to express through unconventional typography.”

The ceremony consisted of a short explanation of the design process and a reading by the local poet whose poem flows across the exterior and continues on the inside windows of the bus, Wendy McVicker.

McVicker’s poem, “In Summer,” begins on the exterior of the bus, and readers can finish the poem on the inside windows when they take a ride. Inside the bus, riders can find cards with the complete text of the poem on them.

Michael Lachman, transportation services manager of Athens Public Transit (operated by Hocking Athens Perry Community Action, or HAPCAP), said the team kept “pretty open” criteria when selecting the poem.

Athens Poetry Bus (Daniel Rader/WOUB)
Photo: Daniel Rader/WOUB

McVicker said they wanted to make sure it would be “G-rated…not too long,” and relating to movement or travel. “In Summer” was written in the 1990s, and previously published in a magazine, but she said it’s “amazing” to see it published this way.

“It throws me every time I see it…The words are huge, and they’re rolling down the street,” said McVicker, who published her first book of poetry earlier this year titled The Dancer’s Notes.

Wendy McVicker reads her poem "In Summer" outside OU's Baker Center on Thursday, Oct. 08, 2015. (Daniel Rader/WOUB)
Wendy McVicker reads her poem “In Summer” outside OU’s Baker Center on Thursday, Oct. 08, 2015. (Daniel Rader/WOUB)

Following the ceremony, everyone was invited on a free ride of the transit, during which the design team took the time to explain more about the process and McVicker read more of her work.

Molly Schoenhoff, director of the project and graphic designer, said the project took about two years to complete because everyone working on it had to divide their time between their careers and coursework.

Although the materials to put the lettering on the transit were funded by Athens Public Transit, the design team worked for free.

Photo: Daniel Rader/WOUB
Photo: Daniel Rader/WOUB

A few of the members consisted of OU graduate student Misty Thomas Trout, undergraduate student Kelsey Hanson and Alicia Hamon, who graduated in May. Schoenhoff said that originally, the text of the poem was supposed to run along the aisle of the bus, but Hamon had the idea to put it on the windows instead for more readability.

“It’s really been lovely to see how this has tied into the essence of Athens,” Lachman said of the many contributors to the project.

The next bus featuring work by a local poet is in the prototype stage and will be unveiled in winter. This one will feature a poem by Kate Fox, titled “West Union Cemetery,” which is about teaching her daughter to drive.

“What it shows to me is the essence of Athens, the synergy within our community,” Wiehl said at the unveiling ceremony. “This is what I love about Athens.”

From left, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl, Misty Thomas-Trout, Molly Schoenhoff, Kelsey Hanson, Nathaniel Berger, Athens Public Transit Manager Michael Lachman, Wendy McVicker (Daniel Rader/WOUB)
From left, Athens Mayor Paul Wiehl, Misty Thomas-Trout, Molly Schoenhoff, Kelsey Hanson, Nathaniel Berger, Athens Public Transit Manager Michael Lachman, Wendy McVicker (Daniel Rader/WOUB)