Poetry Creates a Buzz on Buses

Poetry Creates a Buzz on BusesThe Poetry Bus project is using poetry to promote work, transit, higher education, sustainable commuting, and local community in the Okanagan.

Supported by UBC Okanagan, B.C. Transit, the Hamber Foundation and Off Centre Magazine, the project involved a contest where workers from across the Okanagan were invited to write poems about their jobs.

More than 100 entries were received from doctors, electricians, air traffic controllers, mothers, maintenance workers, clerks, teachers, pilots – even a phlebotomist.

The project was an interdisciplinary, cross-campus collaboration.

Judges, including Jan Gattrell (UBC Okanagan Library) and Martin Blum (Faculty of Creative and Critical Studies), selected a first-prize winner and three second-prize winners. Briar Craig (FCCS) was involved in printmaking T-shirts for the winning poems. Veronica Gaylie (Faculty of Education) co-ordinated the project.

In total, 45 poems were selected to appear on B.C. Transit buses in the Okanagan. And — under blind judging — two second-prize winners, both electricians, are married (to each other). In total, the contest received 23 poems from electricians.

On October 4, bus poets rode the buses while reading their poems aloud on CBC Radio.

Shut Down

7am time for orientation
the boss hands you a hardhat, safety glasses, and glove
find a place to sit, grab a coffee
familiar faces a wave a smile.
The foreman says pay attention don’t get hurt
12 hour days one week shutdown
one week to get this pulp mill upgraded
and running again
one week to rip out the old
reconnect the new
sweat on your face,
ache in your back,
camaraderie and frustration
grab this, go there, pull in cable,
get that motor running
good job says the foreman
as you hand in your hardhat,
see you on the next shut down.

– Alice Brown, Industrial Construction Electrician


Here’s to the bait in the trap
Like hungry dogs we wolf it down
Whimpering about taxes
Between slobbering mouthfuls
It’s double time, double time
Here’s to our mooing and milling
Cows in our cow coloured Carharts
Herd animals, standing in rows…

– Howard Brown, Industrial Construction Electrician

Scottsford Blues

Call it a refinery, but it’s a pile of pipes
With the wind blowing through at 35 below
Men and materials, they call it cost-plus
We call it hide-and-seek, for 2000 a week
As we stay out of sight and try to keep warm

– Howard Brown, Industrial Construction Electrician

Apprehensions of the Underground

Our harnesses are all too big; the batteries weigh about eight pounds each.

We all look like gunslingers.

Our first time in, I crush my thumb with my rock hammer.

Between survey pins I stoop to ice it in the frigid puddles.

My helmet-hair itches, but it’s my lifeline; a pillar of light.

To stop and scratch would make me go blind.

– Robert Coslett, Geological Field Assistant

This is Garbage

Preventative medicine
Was what was being done
Saving from epidemics
Disease would be endemic
Were not garbage collected
Rats would not be gotten rid
A great city, thus, was saved.
The way to honor, thus, is paved
By the routes of garbage trucks.

– William Kirk Floyd, Former Garbage Collector