Seattle's Child

Your guide to a kid-friendly city

Poetry in Public Seattle

Photo courtesy 4Culture

Poetry in Public: Youth encouraged to submit

Chosen poems will be published online and on local transit

Poetry has been called the music of words, the language of the soul, and a condensed language. And while some fear it is a dying artform, it is definitely not dying in Seattle. In fact, a new round of poetry written by King County residents – including local youth – will be popping up on King County Metro and Sound Transit buses, trains, stations, and stops in 2024 as part of the Poety in Public (formerly Poetry on Buses) project.

The short-form poetry competition is a collaboration of 4Culture, and King County Metro  and was founded in 1992 as Poetry on Buses. The idea behind it is simple: Rather than ads, use the white space on public transit to publish poetry by and for people who live in the community. As part of the project Poetry in Public will host several community poetry workshops in the near future.

“Our goal is that everyone realizes they are a poet, even if they are writing a poem for the first time,” says 4Culture Public Art Project Manager Selina Hunstiger.

Encouraging youth to submit their poems

Poetry in Public is accepting submissions of poems to potentially placed on transit through October 30.

Writers from all walks of life are invited to submit, including young children. But the program also has named six “communities of focus” on which to focus submission encouragement. For the 2023-25 Poetry in Public cycle, youth are one of those focus groups, along with African American, Chinese, Filipino, Indigenous, Spanish-speaking writers.

“For this cycle ‘youth’ more specifically means teens age 13 to 18,” says Hunstiger. “There are a couple community poetry workshops specifically designed for them.” Hunstiger says the five or six community focus groups are chosen for each cycle of the projects come from those listed on King County “language tiers.” and include other communities whose voices are too often go unhighlighted or heard.

“The team decided to focus on youth for this cycle to respond to an interest from past participants of the program, and a recognition that youth need spaces for creative outlets among their peers,” Hunstiger says.

The theme

The theme for this year’s Poetry in Public effort is “Places of Landing,” which the project’s website explains this way: “Many of our transportation hubs, roads, docks, and recreational spaces exist directly over Indigenous places of landing. As our community grows and changes, new paths will arise. The concept of landings extends from the land itself to each person’s sense of being, and we all hold memories of the places that shape our days.” 

Poetry in public

Punjabi Community Poetry Workshop for the then-Poetry on Buses 2016-2017 cycle. Photo by Timothy Aguero Photography.

Upcoming youth poetry workshops

Poetry in Public will host three workshops for the youth community of focus. A series of two workshops will be offered at the Old Fire House Teen Center in Redmond from 5:30-7:00pm on September 10 and October 5. These two workshops work together as a whole, but teens can drop-in to just one or the other date if they can’t make both. There will be one other youth/teen specific workshop offered at a date to be determined later.

“We hope the workshops, theme, and online poetry prompts offer inspiration to get people writing,” says Hunstiger.

The rules

Usually when a writer submits poetry for publication, they submit a series in hopes that one will stick out to the publisher and tickle their interest in others. With Poetry in Public you have one shot. Here are the rules:

  • Only one poem per King County resident.
  • Poems submitted in languages other than English must include an English translation for the review panel’s reference only. If a poem is selected, it may be professionally translated before being published.
  • Poems must be the original work of the writer
  • Poems must be no more than 50 words, not counting the title.
  • Authors retain copyright for poems but grant Poetry in Public the right to display the selected poems.
  • Poems must be submitted by October 30, 2023 at 11:59 pm PDT.

Poem selection

How will the submissions be selected for online publication and chosen for display on King County transit? 

  • Poems will be selected on the basis of:
    • Relation to the theme Places of Landing
    • Artistic merit
    • Appropriateness for display on transit and online
    • Compliance with instructions
  • Poems will be assessed in categories: African American, Chinese, Filipino, Indigenous, Spanish-speaking, and Youth, and general public poets.
  • Poets will be notified about by early 2024. Of poems selected for online exhibition, a portion will be featured on select King County Metro and Sound Transit buses, trains, stations, and stops in 2024.

The selected poems will be displayed on transit starting in Spring of 2024, as well as on the 4Culture website: The public poetry project is sponsored by 4Culture, King County Metro Transit and Sound Transit. For more information email

More at Seattle’s Child:

SIFF series offers alien classics

Mural hunting: Exploring this public art form with kids


About the Author

Cheryl Murfin

Cheryl Murfin is managing editor at Seattle's Child. She is also a certified doula, lactation educator for and a certified AWA writing workshop facilitator at