Poems on the Underground started life in January 1986 as an experiment by three friends, the writer Judith Chernaik and the poets Cicely Herbert and Gerard Benson. They persuaded London Underground to post a few poems on its trains, to the delight of bemused commuters. London Underground has supported the programme ever since, enabling us to offer poetry old and new, familiar and unfamiliar, to three million daily travellers on London’s Underground system.
After five years on the tube, we returned the poems to the printed page as 100 Poems on the Underground, which quickly became a best-seller. Our latest collection, Poems on the Underground: A New Edition, is now a Penguin Classic. Most recently, we have added free leaflets of poems on special themes, available on station platforms. Tube displays and free leaflets have been made possible by the generous support of London Underground, Arts Council England and The British Council, which has sent our posters to its offices abroad, inspiring similar programmes in cities across the world. Posters are designed by Tom Davidson, and are usually available from The Poetry Society and London Transport Museum.
With our tube displays paused for now, we hope that new readers will enjoy reading some of our favourite poems here.
The Editors: Judith Chernaik, Imtiaz Dharker, George Szirtes