It's a rainy Saturday and The Best American Poetry blog features a story on Boston introducing poetry into its mass transit system. Subway poetry isn't new. From the PERverse to the SUBverse, graffiti poetry has always lit up the underground. Here in New York, "Poetry In Motion" is the formal approach powered by the Poetry Society of America, resuscitated by the MTA in 2012. The Poetry Society thoughtfully (if not carefully) surfaces bright lines from classic poems and clever turns from poets whose subjects reflect the rich diversity of the city. However, probably to conform with the MTA's mission to offend no one, poems are presented in benign rectangles with a "safe" visual aesthetic, certain to add nothing. Its designs are often childishly reductive or unnecessarily obvious. (The worst offense of NYC's subway program, by far, is that it often publishes poems by Billy Collins.) Boston is improving the model. Its interpretive design approach serves to enhance, add dimension and attract commuters who might otherwise have their heads stuck in the same device they've been staring at all day. Even when sad or contemplative, like this one from Amy Lowell, they fit perfectly into today's wet doldrums: Boston is risking more than other cities because its poems often lean head first into the city's most raw and vulnerable spaces. Like this one, called "Marathon," by Nick Flynn: The ambition behind both efforts and their corresponding websites feels good to just about any urban dweller open to a little something different in the cracks of the day. Why not? A chance to stop and consider, in the dark wifi-less patches, more train traffic ahead of us.
Until we get to do the reality show I have been meaning to do for the last decade -- which is so ready to happen that I can't believe I haven't done it yet -- my favorite reality show is still COPS. Checking out of a Cambridge, MA hotel at 9AM last week, imagine my surprise when I stumbled onto the set of a real life crime. A car being broken into. Did I have my camera with me? Yep. This guy is trying to smash the window of an SUV parked in a private lot. The door man of my hotel notices the crime in action, and calls out to the lot attendant. The owner of the car, who had just parked his car, hears the commotion and runs back to chase the perp. They catch the guy. Fulfilling my self-imposed duty as a responsible member of society (and major fan of COPS)...I film the citizens' arrest. Just in case the guy gets away, we'll have his image on video... Then the real cops come, the Boston cops. And they put him in a paddie wagon. Just as this video ends, you can see the short, pudgy cop coming at me. I stopped recording as he yelled "Sir! What are you doing?" Off camera, I explain how helpful it is that I recorded the whole thing. Ungrateful, he tells me to go away... But I can tell the other cop appreciates my work.