Where is Your Next Stop? Launching Poets on The Comet This Sunday, November 1!


Rosa Rode the Bus Too A revolution began on a city bus. Where is your next stop? - Len Lawson

By: Literary Arts Editor and City Poet Laureate Ed Madden

On Sunday, November 1, One Columbia and The Comet will host the launch of our city’s first major poetry as a public art program—poems on city buses—with a rolling poetry reading on a downtown bus route followed by a celebration and reading at Tapp’s Art Center (1644 Main).

The rolling reading will take place on route 101—so we’re calling it Poetry 101. (Clever, right?) The route, which runs up North Main from the Sumter Street transit station, takes approximately an hour. There will be limited seating, first come, first served. Three sets of poets will read their work for Poetry 101, and thanks to the generosity of One Columbia, all rides on the 101 route will be free all day. For the Poetry 101 rolling reading, meet at the Sumter Street station (1780 Sumter) at 3:30. If you can’t join us on the bus, join us at Tapp’s Art Center for the celebration, with food and drink and readings by more of the poets.

The project is a collaboration One Columbia Arts and History and the Poet Laureate with the Central Midlands Transit Authority. Thanks especially to Lee Snelgrove at One Columbia and Tiffany James at CMTA.

This is my first major project as the city’s poet laureate, and I’m really excited that we have been able to do this. One of my charges as the city laureate is to incorporate the literary arts into the daily life of the city, and to get poetry into public places. The Comet project does that. We have poems on printed CMTA bus schedules (check out some online at: http://catchthecomet.org/routes/), we have poems on the buses themselves, and One Columbia has also published a small book of poems selected for this project—an exciting collection of South Carolina voices, and short poems ranging from the punchy to the political to the poignant. The books will be available at Tapp’s.

Earlier this year, 89 South Carolina writers submitted over 200 poems for Poems on the Comet. Our theme was “The Story of the City,” and poets wrote about favorite places, historical events, daily life in the Midlands, even poems about riding on the bus. We narrowed it down to 51 poems by 45 writers. There are poems by established writers, emerging writers, writers active in the local spoken word and arts communities, musicians, and young writers—seven of them students in Richland and Lexington County middle schools.

At Tapp’s we will also announce the theme for next year’s poetry project.

You can find out more at our Facebook event site: https://www.facebook.com/events/180667522270918/

Learn more about this project and get updates on what I’m doing as laureate at the laureate website: http://www.columbiapoet.org/2015/10/20/cometevent/

Here are a few poems featuring in this year’s project.


Jennifer Bartell

As a turtle suns on the boulders of the river so my soul stretches forth to face the day.

Downtown Grid

Kathleen Nalley

No matter your starting point, here you’re never lost. Each right turn, each left turn leads you to a familiar place. The city itself a compass, its needle, no matter the direction, always points you home.

Small Winds

Jonathan Butler

All morning the wind has collected the incense of fields, the smell of grass like the sweet breath of the dead, the scent of earth pungent with sorrow and hope, the perfume the rain shakes from its long hair.

The wind has collected these things in fields and forests, cities and towns, to bring them to you this morning, small winds carrying chocolate and smoke blown from the black lake of your cup of coffee.

Who Sees The City?

Drew Meetze (age 14)

Who sees the city best? The tourist, the resident, or the outsider? The tourist sees the bronze stars on the capitol, the cramped racks of key chains and postcards. The resident sees little coffee shops on Main Street and hidden alleyways. The outsider understands that everyone they see has their own lives, first loves, or tragedies.


K. LaLima

Time flows like water Eyes of Cofitachequi Watch the Congaree


Under watchful gaze Five Points remains guarded by That naked cowboy

Milltown Saltbox Bedrooms

David Travis Bland

You can dance in the passenger seat— I'll hold the wheel. Five in the morning traffic Between an emaciated bridge And chicken factory steam Blurring the red neon sky. We're vegetarians in a pork town Dancing in milltown saltbox bedrooms On the banks of a river we all cross.

Call for Bus Poems!

bus poetry

Columbia. A city, a community, a home. Columbia has been a home to all of us and now it’s time to tell it’s story. What is your story of Columbia?. How would you tell the city's story? What story would you tell? Where did you go? What did you see? What conversation did you hear? What did you taste? What is your Columbia? Who is your Columbia? Columbia’s poet laureate, Ed madden is holding a poetry competition to put poems on Columbia Comet buses All are welcome to submit!

Madden originally had the idea because in major cities poetry is printed on lots of the major transits. He thought it would be cool to bring that to Columbia and show what a vibrant city Columbia is, with all its culture and art. Madden explains what he is looking for in the poems, “I love quirky and sonically dense poetry. Hoping for a diversity of voices. Poems that help us think about who we are and who we might be.” Madden really believes in the togetherness of Columbia. He’s looking for poems that really capture the voice of the city. Stories about places or overheard conversations. “I really want specificity, and I want poems that give me a very particular portrait of he city. Like what is your take on the city? What I want are honest, accurate, sensory descriptions of who we are and where we are”.

Madden became the Poet Laureate of Columbia this year and was excited to take on the role. He was selected in January 2015 by the City of Columbia. He is to serve for four years and is tor promote and and strengthen the arts of the city. A Laureate is expected to write poetry for different events and represent their particular area. It is a rather prestigious title. He says he doesn’t rely purely on inspiration though. He believes that poetry is work and comes about when you put something into it. He is hoping that the poetry submitted really gets to the heart of what Columbia is.

Poems can be a maximum of 10 lines and must fit the theme “The Story of Columbia”. Longer poems may be considered for a related book that will be published by OneColumbia. All poems must be submitted to poetlaureate@onecolumbiasc.com by July 15th.

by Grace Fennell