Poetry Facts

An Analysis of “Poetry Should Ride the Bus” by Ruth Forman

Last Updated: September 28, 2022

Being a loyal fan of poetry, having read several pieces of this kind of art, or even creating your own verses, have you ever wondered what is poetry for? Obviously, this is a challenging question, yet a poet named Ruth Forman made it to give an opinion – through the poem “Poetry Should Ride the Bus”.

So what is the point behind this piece? Keep reading on as this article will provide you details about the poem and its author, outstanding literary devices employed in the work (Imagery, tone and word order), and the meaning of “Poetry Should Ride the Bus”.  

Overview of “Poetry Should Ride the Bus”

Ruth Forman is an award-winning poet with both African and American roots. Created in 1993, “Poetry Should Ride the Bus” was one of her very first works, and after such an initial piece, the author was said to “take the poetic world by storm”.

It is clear at first glance that this poem flows like a record of Ruth Forman’s life experiences. The first stanza is a recollection of her childhood; the second is a recollection of her adolescence, and so forth.

Enjoying “Poetry Should Ride the Bus”, readers can gain a sense of connection and reminiscence, feeling like they are growing up with the verse.

Along with the poet’s personal coming-of-age journey, the author embeds the image of “poetry” almost everywhere in this poem as a way to raise her voice with regard to the perception of poetry. Also, employing vivid imagery, diverse tone, and cohesive word order, Ruth Forman does convey her message just as straightforwardly as usual.

Imagery in the poem

Imagery is a beautiful literary spice that helps readers to engage with poems on a soul level. With this poetic device, words and their implications can be sensed profoundly.

In the case of “Poetry Should Ride the Bus”, we can see that imagery plays around, even from the title.

“Ride the bus” represents something typical and usual in our everyday life. This imagery suggests that the poet is going to take this piece as a chance to emphasize the importance of poetry as our days’ essential part.

“Ride the bus” represents something typical and usual

At the same time, the lines of this poem skillfully use literary tropes such as visual, aural, and tactile imagery to create a tale about her past.

For instance, the first line of this poem reads:

 “Poetry should hopscotch in a polka dot dress”

This really conjures up vivid images of a young little girl in readers’ heads, as well as refers to the sense of touch when held in one’s hand. The imagery “hopscotch in a polka dot dress” also demonstrates how poetry, in a youthful sense, may enliven and support us.

Or you can take lines 5-6 as a good example for the poem’s rich in imagery:

“Poetry should wear bright red lipstick
n practice kisses in the mirror”

These lines really paint a picture that is simple to envisage and relate: a rebellious adolescent. By reflecting on life events like “wear lipstick” and “practice kisses in the mirror”, Ruth Forman rapidly interacts with her audience. There’s no doubt many of us would feel related to all these memories.

Another illustration for beautiful imagery in “Poetry Should Ride the Bus” is:

“between the greens n chicken wings
to be served with tuesday’s dinner”

The two lines 15, 16 not only evoke pictures of the greens and wings. On top of that, such imagery causes our lips to thirst and our nose to prickle by appealing to our senses of smell and taste.

All in all, poetic device imagery is well employed in this piece, creating a flow of the coming-of-age story that anyone can relate to. These imageries are vivid to various senses, helping build up an overall image, or symbol, of poems. They imply that we should be conversant with poetry and regard it as a commonplace notion.

Tone & word order of the poem

Ruth Forman utilizes contracting tones in “Poetry Should Ride the Bus”. In the first half of the poem, she excites us with childlike feelings but when reading on, it turns out that the tone is getting somber. While the poet is walking readers through different stages in life, this tone makes what she depicts more vivid.

We can take lines 5-6 as typical examples. The tone used in these lines does come off as light, joyous, and funny with “bright red lipstick” and “kisses in the mirror”. Besides, the casual ‘n’ used has a childlike or adolescent-like feel, reflecting how youthful poetry is.

On the contrary, a more serious tone of voice can be seen in lines 21-23:

“poetry should sing red revolution love songs
that massage your scalp/ and bring hope to your blood”

Here the poem’s tone shifts to a more solemn and profound tone. Also, rather than the casual ‘n’, the author utilizes the formal ‘and’, expressing that poems should be approachable and intelligible, yet also more focused. Despite the fact that it just spans a few lines of the verse, this sudden change in tone has a strong influence on the audience.

On top of that, word order is another literary element that works well in the poem.

Opening with the word “Poetry…”, every stanza sets this kind of literature in a distinct environment through both language and image. With such syntax, the author makes it obvious that the major focus and argument she is attempting to convey is about poetry.

Meaning of “Poetry Should Ride the Bus”

Poetry is familiar to us

Connecting the concept of poetry to personal life events from “hopscotch in a polka dot dress” to “wear bright red lipstick” and so on, Ruth Forman also personifies this kind of art, giving it human-like experiences.

Poetry is depicted to be so familiar and relatable to us all. It is just as valuable to humans as our day-by-day moments.

The author also takes a stand against traditional views on poems when opening each stanza with “Poetry should…”.

She is using this poem to try to convince the audience to welcome the concept of poetry into their normal life.

After all, poetry should be appreciated.


To sum up, the spoken poem “Poetry Should Ride the Bus” depicts both Ruth Forman’s personal coming-of-age experiences as well as her strong opinion towards the meanings of poetry.

Utilizing diverse tones, vivid imagery, and cohesive word order, the author raises her voice for poetry appreciation. Not only might we find ourselves in the life story of the poet, but we also feel like poetry is always there with us all. Poetry, at the end of the day, is our life-long companion.

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