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New York City, and Its Mayor, Embrace Poetry

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New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did far more than pay lip service to National Poem in Your Pocket Day (which took place this past Thursday), he wrote a poem about it. His spunky and ambitious effort, "50.5 Million Can't Be Wrong," celebrates the city as a Mecca for tourism.

Hey there, fella! Lady, hey! Didja hear?
It's "Poem in Your Pocket Day!"
Tenth anniversary - the bubbly's flowing
People are cheering...
yelling... Tebowing
Where best to celebrate
this whole affair?
The Crossroads of the World -
Times Square
Historic site of many a saga
And on New Year's Eve... one Gaga
From across the globe, they visit here
50.5 million last year
Wanting to see all they've anticipated
Just follow directions -
it's not complicated
Bronx Zoo? (Take the 5 or the 2)
Rockefeller Center?
(Walk 6 blocks, then enter)
Empire State?
(Bus to Fifth, then go straight)
Ferry to Staten?
(At the tip of Manhattan)
Unisphere in Queens?
(Get there via several means)
NY Aquarium?
(Too far for kids to walk. Just carry 'em)
"Mamma Mia"?
(Right behind you. See ya.)
So on this big birthday of PIYP
Have a fantastic day in NYC
Take in the town -
there is so much here to do!
(Just have a Poem in Your Pocket
when you do)

The New York Daily News asked Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Tracy K. Smith to grade the mayor's effort. Smith kept the kid gloves on, expressing her appreciation for the poem's rhyme scheme and use of everyday language, and for the fact that Bloomberg created "an authentic sense of place." She offered that the poem is, first and foremost, a love poem to the city.

Regardless of how you feel about Bloomberg's verse, it's hard not to see it as symbolic of poetry's imminent return to the consciousness -- or at least the subconscious -- of everyday New Yorkers.

Poets House and the Port Authority of NY & NJ have made poetry a fixture on PATH trains for almost a year now with their Along These Lines program. And the MTA recently announced the re-launch of its popular Poetry in Motion program, which will bring poetry back to New York's subways. Finally, this past Thursday, Poetry in Motion announced it would be expanding to New York's fleet of taxicabs. Taxi and Limousine Commissioner David Yassky called it "the very first inter-modal synergy between taxicabs and the subway system," which translates to (I think) the first time New York's taxi and subway systems have ever worked together on anything. Ah, the power of poetry.

So it appears that it will soon be hard to avoid poetry during your commute in New York. As to whether the mayor's poetry will be included, we'll have to see about that.