Subway Poetry Project Connects New Yorkers

April 23, 2014 at 11:21 am

Madeline Schwartzman’s mission is to connect people. Every day as she travels by subway, Madeline asks fellow commuters to write a poem in her notebook. Some refuse, some accept, and now more than 100 of their poems are posted on Madeline’s website, 365 Day Subway: Poems by New Yorkers. PBS NewsHour Weekend‘s Ivette Feliciano tagged along on Schwartzman’s commute to get the story behind the project.

 Madeline Schwartzman, a professor of architectural design at Barnard College who also teaches interdisciplinary design and drawing at Parsons: the New School for Design, spends a good portion of her morning like many New Yorkers do, getting to work on the subway.

Yet unlike many straphangers, her mission isn’t just getting to her final destination in uptown Manhattan – the journey itself is her goal – and her success all depends on the openness of strangers.

That’s because on every single trip to and from work since last spring, Madeline asks fellow commuters to write a poem in her notebook.

“I can completely recognize who is sort of free to write a poem and almost who can write. I can prove that, it’s amazing. You can just tell. And it’s not necessarily clothing, and it’s not– it’s sometimes a look in the eye, it’s the way they hold their body,” said Schwartzman.

She then posts her favorite entries on her website, “365 Day Subway:  Poems by New Yorkers,” like this one, written to her – one stranger to another.

This is N.Y.

A stranger ask-
usually for money

But today
This stranger asked
for something –
valuable + free

She asked for
a part of me –

I love N.Y.!

Mutual of America PSEG


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