Gary Snyder’s “Here” was posted in MTA subways in 2016 with art from Ray King. Snyder’s poem is about witnessing a sunrise, a daily phenomenon occurring constantly around the world, yet is brushed over by so many during the everyday bustle of life.
With a sunrise being the subject of the poem and the background being solar system-esque, one might wonder why this poster was chosen for a mostly underground subway system. The final line of the poem promotes this thought: asking “Why are we here?” serves not only to make the riders think about why the poet is watching the sun rise, but ponder why the riders themselves are on the subway, underground and hidden from the outside.
The MTA probably does not care what the actual answer is for each rider, but the intent is to have the riders consider why the subway is beneficial to them. The description of a soft wind and the sunlight shining through the trees brings to mind the ecological benefits of mass transit, and also may subconsciously give a more “green” image to the subway system.
The background art helps establish a global scale to the poem, with the bright and colorful orbs that represent awesome and healthy planets, and the light and dark halves of the poster bear a resemblance to the nothingness outside of the stars we can see in the sky. These grandiose implications beckon the question of humanity in the grand scheme of our planet and even in the universe: why are we here? The human’s place on the planet is that of any living creature – to live and maintain the natural state of the Earth, not to harm it whether on purpose or by accident. Snyder’s poem and the Operation Track Sweep ad make the public aware of environmental issues, and thus the riders feel obligated to do their part in bettering the environment through whatever small means they may.
The MTA also has an obligation as a business to satisfy their customers, so the Operation Track Sweep initiative kills two birds with one stone: it makes riders aware of the MTA’s cleaning efforts, which makes the MTA seem like a more ‘friendly’ business; and also promotes riders to help support the cause. Snyder’s poem and King’s art demonstrate the subtle ways that a company can affect their customers in a massively productive way: promoting an ecological attitude that betters the world; prompting a positive outlook for the riders; and even promoting continued use of their service.