Poetry in Motion

Blythewood Poet Wins Bus Verse Contest

Mary Nesbitt Garrison

Mary Nesbitt Garrison

COLUMBIA – “Hold the bus! Wait for us!” wasn’t one of the 51 winning poems in Sunday’s City of Columbia’s Poetry 101 project that offered public poetry readings aboard Columbia’s public bus system, The COMET.

But this poem was one of the winners:

A Trip to Riverbanks?

Mommy, Mommy, there’s nothing to do!

Let’s get in the car and go to the zoo.

The elephants are waiting and the meerkats are, too.

The sharks will be swimming and the otters are new.

So please let’s get ready and go to the zoo.

Tommy, Tommy! What can I say?

You know we just went to the zoo yesterday!

It was written (and read on the bus) by Mary Nesbitt Garrison of Blythewood, a former high school English teacher and a published writer who teaches writing in Blythewood and at The Shepard’s Center located on Trenholm Road in Columbia.

“It was a wonderful afternoon,” Garrison told The Voice. “I enjoyed participating and meeting new people, especially people who are interested in poetry. The poems were excellent,” said Garrison whose own poem was on the lighter side. “Most were more serious and some really touched me,” she said, adding that she considers it quite an accomplishment to make a point in just 10 lines or fewer, the maximum number of lines allowed for contest entries.

The launching of poetry on Columbia’s public transportation system was the mind spring of Columbia’s inaugural Poet Laureate Ed Madden in collaboration with ONE Columbia and The COMET. The event began weeks ago with a poetry contest that attracted more than 200 submissions. It culminated on Sunday with a number of the winning poets riding the Route 101 North Main COMET as they read, alternately, to the seated audience for 30-40 minutes as the bus rolled on down the street. The winning poems and names of their authors are displayed on the inside walls of the colorful COMETS.

After de-busing at the Sumter Street Transit station, the poets and the public proceeded to Tapp’s Arts Center at 1644 Main St. where they visited, talked about all things poetry and enjoyed light refreshments. Quoted in The State newspaper, Madden said the goal of the project was to get literary arts into people’s daily lives, to make poetry part of the life of the city.

Garrison praised Madden’s concept, saying, “We all start out loving poetry in nursery rhymes, like ‘Mary had a little lamb…’ And we still love it. Think of your favorite song, and most of us will find the lyrics are poetry set to music.”

Garrison said she was grateful to Madden for helping instigate and organize the literary/transportation event, and she said she looks forward to more like this one.

Indeed, Poetry 101 could be the inspiration for more people in downtown Columbia soon calling out, ‘Hold the bus! Wait for us!’