Want a rolling start on your next piece of writing? Consider spending a day on the train. Back for the first time since February 2020, Rhythm on the Rails is an immersive, intimate, and inspirational one-day writing retreat on the train, facilitated by writer (etc.!) Johnnie Mazzocco. This year’s ride, from Portland, Oregon, to Seattle, Washington, and back, will roll on Saturday, April 1, 2023. Enrollment is VERY limited and today, Monday, March 13, is the last day for early-bird pricing. So if you’re interested, visit the ROTR website, read all about it, and sign up!

Rhythm on the Rails

January 22, 2020

Attention, Portland-area writers: Rhythm on the Rails is back for another immersive round trip. On Saturday, February 22, 2020, Johnnie Mazzocco will guide a group of writers from Portland to Seattle and back to Portland, by rail, writing all the way. In addition to six hours of writing (three up, three back), the journey also includes lunch at Matt’s in the Market, a visit to the Seattle Art Museum (with prompts), as well as free time to explore Pike Place Market or other Seattle sights of your choice. It’s a rolling writing retreat and it sounds pretty swell.

last minute

October 23, 2019

If you happen to be in the area of Portland, Oregon, here’s a great idea for a writing intensive: Rhythm on the Rails Writing Retreat. Board the train in Portland at 8:00am on Friday, November 1, 2019, travel Business Class with writer/editor/teacher/coach/facilitator Johnnie Mazzocco and a group of writers. Write your way north, then de-train in Seattle for lunch at Matt’s in the Market and a visit to the Seattle Art Museum. Re-board in the evening, write your way south, and be back in Portland by 10:00pm with a bunch of drafts.

The caveat: sign-ups end October 25.

Poetry for Queens

January 6, 2019

There’s nothing static about Queensbound. Here’s a description from KC Trommer’s site:

QUEENSBOUND is a collaborative audio project curated by KC Trommer and supported by a New Work grant from the Queens Council on the Arts. From Long Island City all the way to Jamaica, the poems of QUEENSBOUND map the neighborhoods and the vibrancy and diversity of the borough, embedding audio recordings from leading Queens poets and writers on a subway map, designed by Kyle Richard. Technical support for QUEENSBOUND was provided by Maham Faisal Khan.

On November 3, 2018, the QUEENSBOUND project launched with a reading on the 7 line and reception at the Queens Museum. Some of the leading writers and poets of Queens, including Rosebud Ben-Oni, Malcolm Chang, Catherine Fletcher, Sherese Francis, Jared Harél, Nicole Haroutunian, Abeer Hoque, Safia Jama, Paolo Javier, Joseph O. Legaspi, Ananda Lima, Maria Lisella, Vikas K. Menon, Belal Mobarak, Meera Nair, Maria Terrone, and curator and host KC Trommer, read original work on the 7 train, beginning at Vernon Blvd Jackson Av stop, before stepping off at Mets-Willets Point and heading over to The Queens Museum for a reception. The event concluded with a song which included lines from every poem in the launch from Adam DeGraff and Tyler Burba, hosts of the reading series Kith & Kin.

Read the story in Literary Hub and listen to the poems by clicking on the Queensbound map.

Lazy Train*

August 1, 2013

Marina Murphy - Lazy Train
2013 Merit Award
By Marina Murphy, 10th grade

I’m planted in the grass
next to the one that I call brother
Hot sun on our dusty feet
as we dig for worms and ants
My mother lounging in a lawn chair
fanning herself in the shade
A scream from a machine echoes in
the near-empty valley
and I stand up
and gaze at the train running by
The homeless wave at me from an empty car
while I give a half-hearted wave back
I keep my distance as I watch it go.

*Copyright 2013 by Marina Murphy. Placard design by Egress Studio. Illustration by Angela Boyle, flyingdodopublications.com.

the long love letter…

October 10, 2012

5101 Market St., Philadelphia

Whether it’s called the Blue Line, the El or the Market–Frankford Subway–Elevated Line, the train has been a central feature of Philadelphia’s transportation system for more than a hundred years. In 2009-2010, artist Stephen Powers and The Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, with the support of the Pew Center for Arts and Heritage, collaborated with 40 local and international artists to paint murals on 50 buildings along Market Street between 63rd and 45th Streets.

The murals, which are designed to be viewed by travelers on the El, comprise a long love letter, and the project is known as A Love Letter for You. Poetry in motion? See for yourself at the gallery of murals.

Steve Powers didn’t stop at the end of the line. After the Philadelphia Love Letter, he coordinated similar projects in Syracuse, New York; São Paulo, Brazil; Brooklyn, New York; and Vardo, Norway.

the engineer*

July 24, 2011

2011 Walk Award
By Lucas Walker

Lucas Walker - the engineer - 2011 Walk Award

*Copyright 2011 by Lucas Walker. Read the poem here: the engineer. Placard design by Egress Studio.

the engineer*

May 26, 2011

Lucas Walker read his winning poem, "the engineer"

2011 Walk Award
By Lucas Walker

the engineer

his belt buckle is made entirely of pennies
maybe three inches across, three inches around.
pennies he finds along the railroad tracks
left by kids and the others
curious about the weight of a train
pouring speed over steel rails
leaving Lincoln’s face and monument
an oval remnant of copper
no longer good for exchange
but still warm from the train wheels
keeping force in their corner.

he collects them in a can on his workbench.
when it fills up he dumps them out
and arranges the old pennies into a likable shape
then solders the edges together, some filing, sanding
and a lot of rubbing with a soft cloth.
over the years his friends have all got one
for Christmas or a birthday.
every time he sees me he says,
you’re the only one who actually wears one.
it’s his self-conscious pride that I relate to
but I tell him every time, I wear the belt buckle
because I like it.

*Copyright 2011 by Lucas C. Walker. Photo by Karee Wardrop.

Bellingham trains*

September 11, 2010

Placard design by Egress Studio
2009 Merit Award
Bellingham trains*
By Julie M. Dunaway

Bellingham trains sound like foghorns
their great calls travelling long, rolling distances.
Well, maybe saying reminds me of foghorns
is more like it.
They may not have the foghorn’s guttural, primitive
mighty sea creature-rising-from-the-depths’ bellowing
carrying through misty night over black swells.
Rather, the trains
despite all their gritty tons and grinding metal, are
lighter, more ethereal in their distant announcements
as they pierce through old mists & dark night.
Yet something about them still
borrows from those haunting calls cast by shallow seas.

The bay is very close
we feel it on our skin, on towels that rarely dry,
in the very breeze at dawn.
So even our trains send out resounding calls over water
a call of the last wild, long & lonely & forlorn
bringing to mind the lost lumber mills,
the smoking day labor hopefuls,
and those who sought to leave
these fading seagulls & rusting memories

but never could.

*Copyright 2009 by Julie M. Dunaway. This poem is included in POETRY WALK: Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest – The First Five Years. Info: Book! Placard design by Egress Studio.

Invitation to Jake*

September 6, 2010

2009 Walk Award
Invitation to Jake*
By Gary Wade

You, full of your love for trains,
should come tonight to Eldridge heights
overlooking night-shined Bellingham Bay
at the foot of the BNSF yard.

Sit through evening’s passing
while city hall clock sums the hours;
sit and feel the smell
of hyacinths around the fountain.

Listen to the waxing churn of motive power,
protesting squeals of Westinghouse brakes,
the meeting-clash of iron knuckles
and the rolling tread of steel on steel.

Hear the hard ding of monotone bells
and nervous, out-late laughter of
young women crossing the dewy grass
of Elizabeth Park under the sharp, wailing
mating moans of switch engines.

*Copyright 2009 by Gary Wade. This poem is included in POETRY WALK: Sue C. Boynton Poetry Contest – The First Five Years. Info: Book! Placard design by Egress Studio.

Gary Wade

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