February 2023

This month we feature the poems from our February poems leaflet published in 2020 and distributed free at London Underground stations. The poems featured include some personal favourites and reflections on the natural world and the human imagination.
In their highly individual voices, the poets gathered together here all affirm the enduring value of the written word.

You can see all the poems from leaflet below, or see a copy of our February Poems leaflet

Look out for our new set of poems on the Underground on London Underground and Overground trains from February 27th

February Poems on the Underground

Thaw by Edward Thomas

Thaw, Edward Thomas ' Over the land freckled with snow half-thawed The speculating rooks at their nests cawed And saw from elm-tops, delicate as flowers of grass, What we below could not see, Winter pass'

February – not everywhere by Norman MacCaig

February-not everywhere by Norman MacCaig (1910-96) ' Such days, when trees run downwind, their arms stretched before them. Such days, when the sun's in a drawer and the drawer locked. When the meadow is dead, is a carpet, thin and shabby, with no pattern and at bus stops people retract into collars their faces like fists. -And when, in a firelit room, a mother looks at her four seasons, at her little boy, in the centre of everything, with still pools of shadows and a fire throwing flowers. '

Honesty by Kit Wright

Promise by Jackie Kay

Promise by Jackie Kay: Remember, the time of year when the future appears like a blank sheet of paper a clean calendar, a new chance. On thick white snow you vow fresh footprints then watch them go with the wind’s hearty gust. Fill your glass. Here’s tae us. Promises made to be broken, made to last.'

Perseverance by Marin Sorescu translated by D.J. Enright

Sonnet 98 by William Shakespeare

Prayer For My Father as a Child by Miriam Nash

Fear by Ciaran Carson

The Gulls by Jacob Polley

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.'

Thaw by David Malouf

Thaw by David Malouf (b.1934) ' The season midnight: glass cracks with cold. From lighted shop-windows girls half-sleeping, numb with frost step out. We warm their hands between our hands, we kiss them awake, and the planets melt on their cheeks. First touch, first tears. Behind their blue eyes darkness shatters its pane of ice. We step through into a forest of sunlight, sunflowers. '

25 February 1944 Primo Levi translated by Eleonora Chiavetti

25 February 1944 Primo Levi tr. Eleonora Chiavetta ' I wish I could believe in something beyond, Beyond the death that has undone you. I wish I could tell of the strength With which we longed then, Already drowned, To walk together once again Free under the sun.'

Letters From Yorkshire by Maura Dooley

Letters From Yorkshire by Maura Dooley (b.1957) ' In February, digging his garden, planting potatoes, he saw the first lapwings return and came indoors to write to me, his knuckles singing as they reddened in the warmth. It's not romance, simply how things are. You out there, in the cold, seeing the seasons turning, me with my heartful of headlines feeding words onto a blank screen. Is your life more real because you dig and sow? You wouldn't say so, breaking ice on a waterbutt, clearing a path through snow. Still, it's you who sends me word of that other world pouring air and light into an envelope. So that at night, watching the same news in different houses, our souls tap out messages over the icy miles'

Western Wind by Anon

Westron wynde when wylt thou blow, Anon 'Westron wynde when wylt thou blow the small rain down can rain Christ that my love were in my arms and I in my bed again'

As a Gale on the Mountainside by Sappho

Two Fragments, Sappho (7th Century B.C.) translated by Cicely Herbert Poems on the Underground 1992 ' As a gale on the mountainside bends the oak tree I am rocked by my love. Love holds me captive again and I tremble with bittersweet longing.''

Love after Love by Derek Walcott

Love after Love by Derek Walcott ' The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door, in your own mirror, and each will smile at the other's welcome, and say, sit here. Eat. You will love again the stranger who was your self. Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart to itself, to the stranger who has loved you all your life, whom you ignored for another, who knows you by heart. Take down the love letters from the bookshelf, the photographs, the desperate notes, peel your own image from the mirror. Sit. Feast on your life.' Reprinted by permission of Faber from Collected Poems (1986)

Chinese Poems on the Underground

Winter Travels by Bei Dao translated by David Hinton with Yanbing Chen

Winter Travels, Bei Dao ' who's typing on the void too many stories they're twelve stones hitting the clockface twelve swans flying out of winter tongues in the night describe gleams of light blind bells cry out for someone absent entering the room you see that jester's entered winter leaving behind flame'

Vase by Yang Lian translated by John Cayley

Vase, Yang Lian 'a word eradicates the world a feather drifts down and yet, a bird's nest in each of its fragments preserves the whole'

New Year 1933 by Lu Xun Translated by W.J.F. Jenner

New Year 1933 by Lu Xun (1881 - 1936) Translated by W.J.F. Jenner, Calligraphy by Qu Lei Lei 'The general sits safe on his cloud - wrapped peak While thunderbolts slaughter the humble in their hovels. Far better to live in the International Settlement ,Where the clacking of mahjong heralds the spring .' Chinese Poems on the Underground

The Red Cockatoo by Po Chu-i Translated by Arthur Waley

Listening to a Monk from Shu Playing the Lute by Li Bai translated by Vikram Seth

Listening to a Monk from Shu Playing the Lute, Li Bai 'The monk from Shu with his green lute-case walked Westward down Emei Shan,

Blue, blue is the grass by Anon Translated by Ezra Pound

You can see our poems from January 2023 here