Quick Poll: Subway Poetry?

"Published" in the metro station

I’ve been getting into the holiday spirit by taking care of lots of administrative tasks (insert sarcasm here).

On my way to one of my errands, I got off at the Saint Ambroise metro stop and paused as I was bit surprised: I was reading the stairs.

Getting a little vertigo trying to read the poem as I walk up the steps

Living in New York and then Paris, I’ve always noticed the poems they sometimes place in the subway cars. I hadn’t gotten off at the Saint Ambroise station in awhile, though, so I’d never seen the poem “published” on the actual steps before.

Do you think this is an honor for the writer or kind of sad? I guess I like the idea, but with the graffiti and general grubby feelings I get underground, I wasn’t sure whether it was actually cool. What do you think?

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31 Responses to “Quick Poll: Subway Poetry?”


  1. 3 j December 7, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    I think it’s cool. Here’s my logic. I like when cities do this, put poetry into the everyday lives of people – on stairs, the sides of buses, walls, sidewalks. It makes me happy to come upon it, lucky even, kind of like finding a dollar on the ground. I would think most poets would like having that affect on people, jarring us out of our day-to-day thoughts to consider their words.

    • 4 paris (im)perfect December 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm

      Great point, J. Yes, I love the poetry on the subways. It did jar me on the steps, but that might be the point!

      The first sentence I noticed was actually something like “On ne se perds plus” (my written French sucks, that might not be quite right) – meaning we don’t get lost anymore. And then the subsequent lines were all a play on the words about this, how we do get lost, etc, etc. I was getting lost in the phrases!

      So yes, a break from the ordinary as I was rushing to do some paperwork :)

  2. 5 Linda December 7, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    I think it’s a cool idea. I’m not a big fan of people who deface property that doesn’t belong to them. I don’t see them as artists. (They always reminded me more of dogs who mark their territory with their signatures – yech.) So, for me, the idea of poetry is uplifting in the midst of all that graffiti. Not being all that fluent in French, I’ve been trying to figure out what it says. Nearest I can come is about singing the joys of Paris (which are many) and some wonderful images of sun and flowers and trees – much appreciated whilst underground!

    • 6 paris (im)perfect December 7, 2011 at 6:00 pm

      Yeah, I like some street art, but tags (like in the pic) are just eyesores. I really don’t like that at all.

      Glad you find it’s the poetry that stands out more than the tags!

      I’m always shy about translation (others, feel free to jump in!), but your interpretation sounds good to me! There was another poem that was a play on words. Guess I’ll have to go back to “read” the poems again :)

  3. 7 Paris Karin (an alien parisienne) December 7, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Ooooh Ooooh! What “j” said! I love her comment, and I wholeheartedly agree.

    I like the poems that are posted in the Métro cars, too, from the City of Paris and the RATP. It gives my French a workout.

  4. 9 Evelyn N. Alfred December 7, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    I like it. If the folks that run the subway asked if they could put one of my poems on the steps, I’d be more than happy to oblige.

    I wouldn’t attempt to do it without permission.

  5. 13 aureliad December 7, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Here’s another vote in support of art in unexpected public places!

    There’s so much that we encounter on a daily basis that isn’t beautiful, whether it’s dog poop on the trottoir, homelessness, wars in distant countries, or newspaper headlines announcing the latest environmental catastrophe. So: we need more beauty to lift our collective spirits, and art can do that. It doesn’t matter to me if it’s hanging in the Louvre or tucked into some subway stairs. Were I a visual artist, I’d be delighted to have my work serve as a pick-me-up for the masses. More, more, more! ((S’il vous plait!))

  6. 15 Lee Isbell December 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm

    I’m too old to appreciate it on metro steps. Huffing and puffing going up, trying not to tumble going down. :-)

  7. 17 Franck December 7, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    The author’s point of view doesn’t matter! Is it refreshing to see these words written here? My answer is YES! Better than another sign post or insult or politics stuff or commercials. The best line of the world has its place anywhere, even on a wet T-shirt!!! (male opinion)

  8. 19 writingfeemail December 8, 2011 at 3:54 am

    Poetry is much better than the graffiti I have seen at some subway stations. And there was one post – maybe one of yours, don’t remember – that had a link to you-tube with musical notes placed underneath the runners and played as people climbed. It was fantastic.

  9. 21 Kristin Bair O'Keeffe December 8, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    I love public poetry. I love that maybe one kiddo or one grumpy old man or one down-and-out chickie-babe or one rich SOB or one plowing-through-my-day teacher/preacher/singer/swinger will look up, read, and get inspired. It’s a possibility. A chance. Makes me happy.

  10. 23 Barb December 8, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    Love it, these are the things that are enjoyed by people as they go about their day.

  11. 25 Adam December 9, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    If I were a poet, I’d feel honoured if someone put graffiti alongside my words.

    The only thing that annoys me about poetry in such places is that it is invariably of the ‘jolly’ kind. Paris is beautiful, the birds are singing, isn’t love great. It would be nice to see something really depressing for a change!

    • 26 paris (im)perfect December 9, 2011 at 4:01 pm

      For me it would depend on the graffiti and I’ve always seen a difference between graffiti and ugly tags, like up in that photo.

      I was just thinking the same thing about the jolly poetry, though. (To be fair, the first poem in the station felt more existentiel – about feeling lost and such. Should have taken a photo of that). I guess the more controversial question would have been whether *depressing* poetry has its place in public spaces or if it makes sense to only feature “uplifting” poems. :)

  12. 27 Sariah December 14, 2011 at 2:24 am

    I love it, actually. I love that it exposes people to poetry, that it’s unexpected, and well, I love poetry so if it was up to me it would be printed everywhere. Also, I’ve been introduced to some poetry I’d never have discovered on my own (especially since I moved here.)

    Your blog is just great, Sion. xo

  13. 29 sharoninavolvo December 14, 2011 at 8:15 pm

    Is it OK?! Yes, anytime you share art/poetry to the masses of course…have never seen poetry on stairsteps tho & I’ve been to Paris, missed this station – but am not fluent in French so I would need to take even longer going up those steps?! And as for companion grafitti/street art, that’s OK too – love finding it in unexpected places especially (only I agree about the tags not being the best rep for the rest…) Thanks for sharing, Jingle…jingle…


  1. 1 Glowing Pod (+ Poem Published!) « paris (im)perfect Trackback on January 11, 2012 at 4:14 pm

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paris (im)perfect?

Sion Dayson is paris (im)perfect. Writer, dreamer, I moved to France on – no exaggerating – a romantic whim. As you can imagine, a lot can go wrong (and very right!) with such a (non)plan. These are the (im)perfect stories that result.

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