August 2021

The Thunderbolt’s Training Manual, Danielle Hope ‘Choose a soporific afternoon. As sunbathers doze, saturday papers abandoned.’

Our new summer set of poems will be in London Underground trains through the summer.

Our Poems for August 2021 again feature our summer set of poems by the poets W.S. Merwin, Pascale Petit, Ilya Kaminsky, Patrick Kavanagh, Anyte of Tegea and Fawzi Karim.

We continue our Celebration of 35 Years of Poems on the Underground with our set of poems from April 1988, designed by the London College of Printing, followed by a summer selection from 10 years of Poems on the Underground.

Remembering Summer, W.S. Merwin ‘Being too warm the old lady said to me is better than being too cold I think now in between is the best because you never give it a thought but it goes by too fast I remember the winter how cold it got I could never get warm wherever I was but I don’t remember the summer heat like that only the long days the breathing of the trees the evenings with the hens still talking in the lane and the light getting longer in the valley the sound of a bell from down there somewhere I can sit here now still listening to it’
Her Glasses, Pascale Petit ‘My grandmother’s glasses are a greenhouse behind which luxurious flowers grow, species I will never name, or find again. Her last glance back at her childhood jungle trembles there, watered by monsoons but I have never seen her cry. She closed the glass doors as I said goodbye. She waved at me as the taxi drove me away – her blinds came down against my fierce rays.’
In the Bright Sleeve of the Sky, Ilya Kaminsky ‘Is that you, little soul? Sometimes at night I light a lamp so as not to see. I tiptoe, Anushka drowsing in my palms: on my balding head, her bonnet.’
Consider the Grass Growing , Patrick Kavanagh ‘Consider the grass growing As it grew last year and the year before, Cool about the ankles like summer rivers, When we walked on a May evening through the meadows To watch the mare that was going to foal.’
from The Greek Anthology, Anyte of Tegea trans. David Constantine ‘Midsummer in the leaves there’s a murmuring breath of air. Among the roots a cold spring bubbles through. Wayfarer, weary to death, here is kindness to spare. Earthly, heavenly, as the tree lives, so may you.’
Black Ink, Fawzi Karim, in a version by Anthony Howell ‘The darkness of this night is greater Than the power of a sultan. Ink from my books, shelf upon shelf of them, Pours down the curtains. Every book is an overturned inkwell. Patience, I say. Day will dawn, And the colours will spill everywhere. Snatching up the brush, I try to paint the walls green, The curtains rosy pink, But now the waves come washing in: Blue – with light’s sporadic wink.’

Celebrating 35 Years of Poems on the Underground

April 1988 Designed by the London College of Printing

Dylan Thomas, In my craft or sullen art 'In my craft or sullen art Exercised in the still night When only the moon rages And the lovers lie abed With all their griefs in their arms, I labour by singing light Not for ambition or bread Or the strut and trade of charms On the ivory stages But for the common wages Of their most secret heart. Not for the proud man apart From the raging moon I write On these spindrift pages Nor for the towering dead With their nightingales and psalms But for the lovers, their arms Round the griefs of the ages, Who pay no praise or wages Nor heed my craft or art.'
The Coming of Grendel from BEOWULF (10th century or earlier) translated by Gerard Benson 'Now from the marshlands under the mist-mountains Came Grendel prowling; branded with God`s ire. This murderous monster was minded to entrap Some hapless human in that high hall. On he came under the clouds, until clearly He could see the great golden feasting place, Glimmering wine-hall of men. Not his first Raid was this on the homeplace of Hrothgar. Never before though and never afterward Did he encounter hardier defenders of a hall.'
Midsummer, Tobago, Derek Walcott 'Broad sun-stoned beaches. White heat. A green river. A bridge, scorched yellow palms from the summer-sleeping house drowsing through August. Days I have held, days I have lost, days that outgrow, like daughters, my harbouring arms.'
Handbag , Ruth Fainlight ' My mother's old leather handbag, crowded with letters she carried all through the war. The smell of my mother's handbag: mints and lipstick and Coty powder. The look of those letters, softened and worn at the edges, opened, read, and refolded so often. Letters from my father. Odour of leather and powder, which ever since then has meant womanliness, and love, and anguish, and war.'
Sonnet from the Portuguese, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Poems on the Underground Poster from April 1988 'How do I love thee? Let me count the ways. I love thee to the depth and breadth and height My soul can reach, when feeling out of sight For the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s Most quiet need, by sun and candle-light. I love thee freely, as men strive for right; I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use In my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose With my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, Smiles, tears, of all my life; and, if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.'

10 Years of Poems on the Underground 1986-1995


Ozymandias, Percy Bysshe Shelley Poems on the Underground Poster January 1986 'I met a traveller from an antique land, Who said : Two vast and trunkless legs of stone Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand, Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown, And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command, Tell that its sculptor well those passions read Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things, The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed; And on the pedestal these words appear: "My name is OZYMANDIAS, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!" Nothing beside remains. Round the decay Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare The lone and level sands stretch far away.'
This Is Just To Say , William Carlos Williams Poems on the Underground Poster January 1986 'I have eaten the plums that were in the icebox and which you were probably saving for breakfast Forgive me they were delicious so sweet and so cold'
At Lord’s, Francis Thompson Poems on the Underground 1986 poster ‘It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk, Though my own red roses there may blow; It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk, Though the red roses crest the caps, I know. For the field is full of shades as I near the shadowy coast, And a ghostly batsman plays to the bowling of a ghost, And I look through my tears on a soundless-clapping host As the run-stealers flicker to and fro, To and fro: - O my Hornby and my Barlow long ago!'


Ragwort, Anne Stevenson 'They won't let railways alone, those yellow flowers. They're that remorseless joy of dereliction


Everything Changes after Brecht, 'Alles wandelt sich' Cicely Herbert 'Everything changes. We plant trees for those born later but what's happened has happened, and poisons poured into the seas cannot be drained out again. What's happened has happened. Poisons poured into the seas cannot be drained out again, But everything changes. We plant trees for those born later.'


And Yet The Books, Czeslaw Milosz ' And yet the books will be there on the shelves, separate beings, That appeared once, still wet As shining chestnuts under a tree in autumn, And, touched, coddled, began to live In spite of fires on the horizon, castles blown up, Tribes on the march, planets in motion. “We are, ” they said, even as their pages Were being torn out, or a buzzing flame Licked away their letters. So much more durable Than we are, whose frail warmth Cools down with memory, disperses, perishes. I imagine the earth when I am no more: Nothing happens, no loss, it’s still a strange pageant, Women’s dresses, dewy lilacs, a song in the valley. Yet the books will be there on the shelves, well born, Derived from people, but also from radiance, heights.'
The Hitchhikers, Diane Wakoski 'They burn you like the berries of mountain ash in August, standing by the road, clearly defined, Autumnal brilliant, heads scorched from waiting in the sun. How can you pass them up? But you do, and dream each night of a hell, where you are a hitchhiker, and no one will ever stop to pick you up...'


I Saw a Jolly Hunter, Charles Causley 'I saw a jolly hunter With a jolly gun Walking in the country In the jolly sun. In the jolly meadow Sat a jolly hare. Saw the jolly hunter. Took jolly care. Hunter jolly eager- Sight of jolly prey. Forgot gun pointing Wrong jolly way. Jolly hunter jolly head Over heels gone. Jolly old safety catch Not jolly on. Bang went the jolly gun. Hunter jolly dead. Jolly hare got clean away. Jolly good, I said.'
Virtue, George Herbert 'Sweet day, so cool, so calm, so bright The bridal of the earth and sky: The dew shall weep thy fall tonight, For thou must die. Sweet rose, whose hue, angry and brave, Bids the rash gazer wipe his eyes: Thy root is ever in its grave, And thou must die. Sweet spring, full of sweet days and roses, A box where sweets compacted lie: My music shows ye have your closes, And all must die. Only a sweet and virtuous soul, Like seasoned timber, never gives; But though the whole world turn to coal. Then chiefly lives.'


The Uncertainty of the Poet, Wendy Cope 'I am a poet. I am very fond of bananas. I am bananas. I am very fond of a poet. I am a poet of bananas. I am very fond. A fond poet of 'I am, I am'- Very bananas. Fond of 'Am I bananas? Am I?'-a very poet. Bananas of a poet! Am I fond? Am I very? Poet bananas! I am. I am fond of a 'very.' I am of very fond bananas. Am I a poet?'


Dream Boogie , Langston Hughes 'Good morning, daddy! Ain’t you heard The boogie-woogie rumble Of a dream deferred? Listen closely: You’ll hear their feet Beating out and beating out a— You think It’s a happy beat? Listen to it closely: Ain’t you heard something underneath like a— What did I say? Sure, I’m happy! Take it away! Hey, pop! Re-bop! Mop! Y-e-a-h!'
Words, Wide Night, Carol Ann Duffy 'Somewhere on the other side of this wide night and the distance between us, I am thinking of you. The room is turning slowly away from the moon. This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear. La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine the dark hills I would have to cross to reach you. For I am in love with you and this is what it is like or what it is like in words'
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.'


Love in a Bathtub, Sujata Bhatt ' Years later we'll remember the bathtub the position of the taps the water, slippery as if a bucketful of eels had joined us ... we'll be old, our children grown up but we'll remember the water sloshing out the useless soap, the mountain of wet towels. 'Remember the bathtub in Belfast?' we'll prod each other-'
From The Garden, Andrew Marvell ' What wondrous life in this I lead! Ripe apples drop about my head; The luscious clusters of the vine Upon my mouth do crush their wine; The nectarine, and curious peach, Into my hands themselves do reach; Stumbling on melons, as I pass, Ensnared with flowers, I fall on grass. Meanwhile the mind, from pleasure less, Withdraws into its happiness: The mind, that ocean where each kind Does straight its own resemblance find; Yet it creates, transcending these, Far other worlds, and other seas; Annihilating all that’s made To a green thought in a green shade.'
Late Summer Fires, Les Murray ' The paddocks shave black with a foam of smoke that stays, welling out of red-black wounds. In the white of a drought this happens. The hardcourt game. Logs that fume are mostly cattle, inverted, stubby. Tree stumps are kilns. Walloped, wiped, hand-pumped, even this day rolls over, slowly. At dusk, a family drives sheep out through the yellow of the Aboriginal flag.'


Swineherd, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin ' When all this is over, said the swineherd, I mean to retire, where Nobody will have heard about my special skills And conversation is mainly about the weather. I intend to learn how to make coffee, as least as well As the Portuguese lay-sister in the kitchen And polish the brass fenders every day. I want to lie awake at night Listening to cream crawling to the top of the jug And the water lying soft in the cistern. I want to see an orchard where the trees grow in straight lines And the yellow fox finds shelter between the navy-blue trunks, Where it gets dark early in summer And the apple-blossom is allowed to wither on the bough.'


The Leader, Roger McGough Poems on the Underground 1995 Poster 'I wanna be the leader I wanna be the leader Can I be the leader? Can I? I can? Promise? Promise? Yippee. I'm the leader I'm the leader OK what shall we do?'
Jean Binta Breeze, Moonwise Moonwise (for my children, all) sometimes you know the moon is not a perfect circle and the master Painter makes a passing brush touch with a cloud don't worry we've passed the dark side all you children rest easy now we are born moonwise'

Poems displayed in July 2021 can be found on our July 2021 page