April 2023

Sun a-shine, rain a-fall, Valerie Bloom 'Sun a-shine, rain a-fall, The Devil an' him wife cyan 'gree at all, The two o'them want one fish-head, The Devil call him wife bonehead, She hiss her teeth, call him cock-eye, Greedy, worthless an 'workshy, While them busy callin' name, The puss walk in, sey is a shame To see a nice fish go to was'e, Lef' with a big grin pon him face.'

Sun a Shine Rain a Fall read by Valerie Bloom

This Month we celebrate Shakespeare’s birthday on April 23rd with his Sonnet 65 Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea. We feature Spring Poems and Poems recorded by poets for World Poetry Day, and end with a selection of poems of Modern Times.

Spring Poems on the Underground

Opening lines of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer

Opening lines of The Canterbury Tales Geoffrey Chaucer (1340?-1400) 'Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and heeth The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne Hath in the Ram his half cours yronne, And smale foweles maken melodye That slepen all the nyght with open ye (So priketh hem nature in hir corages) Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages... '

Waiting for Rain in Devon by Peter Porter

Waiting for Rain in Devon, Peter Porter (b.1929) ) ' Rain here on a tableau of cows might seem a return to everyday - why, you can almost poach the trout with your hands, their element has so thickened! Something has emerged from dreams to show us where we are going, a journey to a desolate star. Come back, perennial rain, stand your soft sculptures in our gardens for the barefoot frogs to leap.'

A Song for England by Andrew Salkey

A song for England, Andrew Salkey. Poems on the Underground poster 1991 'An' a so de rain a-fall An' a so de snow a-rain An' a so de fog a-fall An' a so de sun a-fail An' a so de seasons mix An' a so de bag-o'-tricks But a so me understan' De misery o' de Englishman.

The Trees by Philip Larkin

The Trees ,Philip Larkin 1997 poems on the Underground poster 'The trees are coming into leaf Like something almost being said; The recent buds relax and spread, Their greenness is a kind of grief. Is it that they are born again And we grow old? No, they die too. Their yearly trick of looking new Is written down in rings of grain. Yet still the unresting castles thresh In fullgrown thickness every May. Last year is dead, they seem to say, Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.'

The Very Leaves of the Acacia Tree are London by Kathleen Raine

Kathleen Raine, The Very Leaves of the Acacia-Tree are London ' The very leaves of the acacia-tree are London; London tap-water fills out the fuchsia buds in the back garden, Blackbirds pull London worms out of the sour soil, The woodlice, centipedes, eat London, the wasps even. London air through stomata of myriad leaves And million lungs of London breathes. Chlorophyll and haemoglobin do what life can To purify, to return this great explosion To sanity of leaf and wing. Gradual and gentle the growth of London pride, And sparrows are free of all the time in the world: Less than a window-pane between.'

Child by Sylvia Plath

Child by Sylvia Plath 'Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing. I want to fill it with colour and ducks, The zoo of the new Whose names you meditate — April snowdrop, Indian pipe, Little Stalk without wrinkle, Pool in which images Should be grand and classical Not this troublous Wringing of hands, this dark Ceiling without a star.'

I Sing of a Maiden Anon

I sing of a Maiden Anon (early 15th century )' I sing of a maiden that is makeless King of all kings to her son she chose he came also still there his mother was as dew in April that falleth on the grass he came also still to his mother's bower as dew in April that falleth on the flower he came also still there his mother lay as dew in April that falleth on the spray mother and maiden was never none but she well may such a lady God's mother be'

The Argument of His Book by Robert Herrick

The Argument of His Book by Robert Herrick (1591 - 1674) 'I sing of Brooks, of Blossomes, Birds, and Bowers: Of April, May, of June, and July-Flowers. I sing of May-poles, Hock-carts, Wassails, Wakes, Of Bride-grooms, Brides, and of their Bridall-cakes. I write of Youth, of Love, and have Accesse By these, to sing of cleanly-Wantonnesse. I sing of Dewes, of Raines, and piece by piece Of Balme, of Oyle, of Spice and Amber-Greece. I sing of Times trans-shifting; and I write How Roses first came Red, and Lillies White. I write of Groves, of Twilights, and I sing The Court of Mab, and of the Fairie-King. I write of Hell; I sing (and ever shall) Of Heaven, and hope to have it after all. '

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad by Robert Browning

Home-Thoughts, from Abroad by Robert Browning 'Oh, to be in England Now that April's there, And whoever wakes in England Sees, some morning, unaware, That the lowest boughs and the brushwood sheaf Round the elm-tree bole are in tiny leaf, While the chaffinch sings on the orchard bough In England—now!'

Proud Songsters by Thomas Hardy

Letter to André Billy 9 April 1915 by Guillaume Apollinaire translated by Oliver Bernard

LETTER TO ANDRÉ BILLY 9 APRIL 1915 , Guillaume Apollinaire (1880-1918) tr. Oliver Bernard 'Gunner /Driver One (front-line) Here I am and send you greetings No no you're not seeing things My Sector's number fifty-nine I hear the whistle of the bird the beautiful bird of prey I see far away the cathedral Premier canonnier conducteur Je suis au front et te salue Non non tu n'as pas la berlue Cinquante-neuf est mon secteur... OH MY DEAR ANDRE BILLY '

The Birds Will Still Sing by Anise Koltz translated by John Montague

Anise Koltz Tr. John Montague , The Birds Will Still Sing ' Les oiseaux continuent à chanter Abattez mes branches sciez-moi en morceaux les oiseaux continuent à chanter dans mes racines The Birds Will Still Sing Break my branches saw me into bits the birds will still sing in my roots'

25th April 1974 Sophia de Mello Breyner translated by Ruth Fainlight

25th April 1974, Sophie de Mello Breyner tr.Ruth Fainlight, 'This is the dawn I was waiting for The first day whole and pure When we emerged from night and silence Alive into the substance of time'

Our Town with the Whole of India by Daljit Nagra

Our Town with the Whole of India, Daljit Nagra 'Our town in England with the whole of India sundering out of its temples, mandirs and mosques for the customised streets. Our parade, clad in cloak-orange with banners and tridents, chanting from station to station for Vaisakhi over Easter. Our full-moon madness for Eidh with free pavement tandooris and legless dancing to boostered cars. Our Guy Fawkes’ Diwali – a kingdom of rockets for the Odysseus-trials of Rama who arrowed the jungle foe to re-palace the Penelope-faith of his Sita. '

Sonnet 65 by William Shakespeare

Sonnet 65 by William Shakespeare 'Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea But sad mortality o’er-sways their power, How with this rage shall beauty hold a plea, Whose action is no stronger than a flower? O, how shall summer’s honey breath hold out Against the wrackful siege of batt’ring days, When rocks impregnable are not so stout, Nor gates of steel so strong, but time decays? O fearful meditation! where, alack, Shall time’s best jewel from time’s chest lie hid? Or what strong hand can hold his swift foot back? Or who his spoil of beauty can forbid? O, none, unless this miracle have might, That in black ink my love may still shine bright.'

Poems on the Underground Recordings for World Poetry Day

Paula Meehan, Irish poet and playwright, reads her poem ‘Seed’, perfect for this time of year

Seed by Paula Meehan 'The first warm day of spring and I step out into the garden from the gloom of a house where hope had died to tally the storm damage, to seek what may have survived. And finding some forgotten lupins I’d sown from seed last autumn holding in their fingers a raindrop each like a peace offering, or a promise, I am suddenly grateful and would offer a prayer if I believed in God. But not believing, I bless the power of seed, its casual, useful persistence, and bless the power of sun, its conspiracy with the underground, and thank my stars the winter’s ended.'

Seed read by Paula Meehan

Theo Dorgan, Irish writer, reads his poem based on many happy visits to Greece, ‘Bread Dipped in Olive Oil and Salt’

Theo Dorgan, Bread Dipped in Olive Oil and Salt 'Bread dipped in olive oil and salt, a glass of rough dry white. A table beside the evening sea where you sit shelling pistachios,'

Bread dipped in Olive Oil and Salt read by Theo Dorgan

Judith Chernaik, founder of Poems on the Underground, reads her poem ‘Tortoise,’ commissioned to represent the tortoise in ‘Carnival of the Animals’ by the French composer Saint-Saens

Tortoise, Judith Chernaik ' Under the mottled shell of the old tortoise beats the heart of a young dancer. '

Tortoise read by Judith Chernaik

George Szirtes, Hungarian-born poet and translator and part of the Poems on the Underground team reads  his own poem ‘Accordionist’ and a poem by the Kurdish poet Ilhan Sami Comak, ‘What I know of the sea’.  Comak is a Kurdish poet who has been imprisoned in a Turkish prison for 29 years, as a ‘political activist,’ a charge never proven.

Accordionist, George Szirtes ' The accordionist is a blind intellectual carrying an enormous typewriter whose keys grow wings as the instrument expands into a tall horizontal hat that collapses with a tubercular wheeze. My century is a sad one of collapses. The concertina of the chest; the tubular bells of the high houses; the flattened ellipses of our skulls that open like petals. We are the poppies sprinkled along the field. We are simple crosses dotted with blood. Beware of the sentiments concealed in this short rhyme. Be wise. Be good.'

Accordionist read by George Szirtes

What I know of the sea by  İlhan Sami Çomak

What I know of the sea by İlhan Sami Çomak translated by Caroline Stockford ' Rains wander your face, the gentleness of dew is in your voice. Let each and every spring be yours! May all mountains tire and arrive here! Here at the place where stars have spilled you where waters flow; the place where you say Curl up on my lap and let birds take flight In the place where we collected questions such as ‘what was before words?’ What I know of love is so little! Yet I’m constantly thinking of you!' Reprinted by permission of Smokestack Books from Separated from the Sun (2022)

What I know of the sea by  İlhan Sami Çomak read by George Szirtes

Imtiaz Dharker reading her poem ‘Carving’, and ‘A Portable Paradise’ by Roger Robinson the distinguished British writer, musician and performance poet with strong ties with Trinidad; his poem was on the tube last year. Imtiaz, a prize-winning poet with ties both with India and Pakistan, has been part of Poems on the Underground for the past 9 years.

World Poems on the Underground Carving , Imtiaz Dharkar. Others can carve out their space in tombs and pyramids

Carving read by Imtiaz Dharker

A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson

And if I speak of Paradise, Roger Robinson ‘And if I speak of Paradise then I’m speaking of my grandmother who told me to carry it always on my person, concealed, so no one else would know but me.’

A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson read by Imtiaz Dharker

John Glenday, Scottish poet, reads his poem ‘For my Wife, Reading in Bed’

For My Wife, Reading in Bed by John Glenday ' I know we’re living through all the dark we can afford. Thank goodness, then, for this moment’s light and you, holding the night at bay—a hint of frown, those focussed hands, that open book. I’ll match your inward quiet, breath for breath. What else do we have but words and their absences to bind and unfasten the knotwork of the heart; to remind us how mutual and alone we are, how tiny and significant? Whatever it is you are reading now my love, read on. Our lives depend on it.' John Glenday Reprinted by permission of Picador from Selected Poems (2020)

For my Wife, Reading in Bed read by John Glenday

Modern Times

Space Time by Miroslav Holub

Spacetime by Miroslav Holub (b. 1923) Translated by David Young and Dana Habova 'When I grow up and you get small,/ then - (In Kaluza's theory the fifth dimension is represented as a circle associated with every point in spacetime) - then when I die, I'll never be alive again? Never. Never never? Never never. Yes, but never never never? No... not never never never, just never never. So we made a small family contribution to the quantum problem of eleven-dimensional supergravity.'

The Present by Michael Donaghy

The Present, Michael Donaghy ' For the present there is just one moon, though every level pond gives back another .But the bright disc shining in the black lagoon, perceived by astrophysicist and lover ,is milliseconds old. And even that light's seven minutes older than its source. And the stars we think we see on moonless nights are long extinguished. And, of course, this very moment, as you read this line, is literally gone before you know it. Forget the here-and-now. We have no time but this device of wantonness and wit. Make me this present then: your hand in mine, and we'll live out our lives in it.'

Quark by Jo Shapcott

Quark by Jo Shapcott ‘Transcendental,’ said the technician, ‘to stumble on a quark that talks back. I will become a mystagogue, initiate punters into the wonders of it for cash.’ ‘Bollocks’, said the quark, from its aluminium nacelle. ‘I don’t need no dodgy crypto-human strategising my future. Gonna down-size under the cocoplum or champak, drink blue marimbas into the sunset, and play with speaking quarklike while I beflower the passing gravitons.’

The World is too much with us by William Wordsworth

'The world is too much with us' by William Wordsworth (1770-1850) ' The world is too much with us; late and soon, Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers: Little we see in nature that is ours; We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon! This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon; The Winds that will be howling at all hours And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers; For this, for every thing, we are out of tune; It moves us not. Great God! I'd rather be A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn; So might I, standing on this pleasant lea, Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn; Have sight of Proteus coming from the sea; Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. ' Poems on the Underground The British Council. The British Library (Zweig Programme). Designed by Tom Davidson.

Monopoly by Paul Farley

Monopoly by Paul Farley ' We sat like slum landlords around the board buying each other out with fake banknotes, until we lost more than we could afford, or ever hope to pay back. Now our seats are empty - one by one we left the game in this other world, its building sites, its rain; but slowly learned the rules or made our own, stayed out of jail and kept our noses clean. And now there's only me - sole freeholder of every empty office space in town, and from the quayside I can count the cost each low tide brings - the skeletons and rust of boats, cars, hats, boots, iron, a terrier.'

Shopper by Connie Bensley.

Connie Bensley, Shopper I am spending my way out of a recession. The road chokes on delivery vans. I used to be Just Looking Round, I used to be How Much, and Have You Got It In Beige. Now I devour whole stores— high speed spin; giant size; chunky gold; de luxe springing. Things. I drag them around me into a stockade. It is dark inside; but my credit cards are incandescent.'

You can see our poems from March 2023 here