January 2021

As 2021 unfolds, poetry has never seemed more necessary to us as a source of hope and consolation.

We’ve chosen seasonal poems from earliest times to the present, by poets from England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and across the world, all in their original poster designs. Included are poems on universal themes – life and death, music, flora and fauna, ending with a celebration of Scotland’s national poet, Robert Burns.

We hope you will find our seasonal poems a comforting resource as we move towards brighter days and better times.

Poems for the New Year

Love Poems on the Underground Promise   Jackie Kay. Remember, the time of year when the future appears like a blank sheet of paper
World Poems on the Underground Carving , Imtiaz Dharkar. Others can carve out their space in tombs and pyramids
P. B. Shelley, The World’s Great Age Begins Anew 'The world’s great age begins anew, The golden years return, The earth doth like a snake renew her winter weeds outworn:'

Poems of Life and Death

My life closed twice before its close, Emily Dickinson 'My life closed twice before its close- It yet remains to see If immortality unveil A third event to me,'
Memory of my Father, Patrick Kavanagh 'Every old man I see Reminds me of my father When he had fallen in love with death One time when sheaves were gathered.'
Separation, W.S. Merwin ' Your absence has gone through me Like thread through a needle. Everything I do is stitched with its colour.'
Funeral Blues, W.H. Auden ‘Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone, Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,’
Holy Sonnet, John Donne 'Death be not proud, though some have called thee Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so; For those whom thou think'st thou dost overthrow Die not, poor death, nor canst thou kill me'
Sic Vita, Henry King 'Like to the falling of a star; Or as the flights of eagles are; Or like the fresh spring's gaudy hue; Or silver drops of morning dew;'
The Shaft, Helen Dunmore ' I don't need to go to the sun- It lies on my pillow. Without movement or speech Day deepens its sweetness.'
Peace (after Goethe), David Constantine ' For this, the dark, the ceasing of the winds And the sky's gift, the steady rain, And ours to one another, our bodies' happiness,'

Poems On a Musical Note

Today , Sujata Bhatt ' The fourth candle has been lit. How can you be in exile when you live with the one you love? Our Chinese Schiller stands by the window. Outside, three crows ignore a snowman. The fourth candle has been lit. These flames make us linger, these flames slip into our words- Today, it's Händel on the radio- and the northern sun is still strong. '
A Musical Note, Elizabeth Smart ' Sometimes Handel is loud, triumphant, insistent. I wanted to say shut up! Can anything really be that successful and sure?'
Harvestwoman, Fernando Pessoa ' But no, she's abstract, is a bird Of sound in the air of air soaring, And her soul sings unencumbered Because the song's what makes her sing.'
John Fuller, Concerto for Double Bass ' He is a drunk leaning companionably Around a lamp post or doing up With intermittent concentration Another drunk's coat.'
Lines to a Movement in Mozart’s E-flat Symphony, Thomas Hardy ‘Show me again the time When in the Junetide’s prime We flew by meads and mountains northerly! – Yea, to such freshness, fairness, fullness, fineness, freeness, Love lures life on….’
The Silver Swan, Anon 'The silver swan, who living had no note, When death approached unlocked her silent throat, Leaning her breast against the reedy shore, Thus sung her first and last ,and sung no more:'

Poems for The World

Rainforest, Judith Wright 'The forest drips and glows with green. The tree-frog croaks his far off song. His voice is stillness, moss and rain drunk from the forest ages long.'
The Butterfly, Arun Kolatkar ' There is no story behind it. It is split like a second. It hinges round itself. It has no future. It is pinned down to no past. It's a pun on the present. It's a little yellow butterfly. It has taken these wretched hills under its wings. Just a pinch of yellow, it opens before it closes and closes before it o where is it '
Still Life with Sea Pinks and High Tide, Maura Dooley 'Thrift grows tenacious at the tide's reach. What is that reach when the water is rising, rising?'
Snow, Edward Thomas ' In the gloom of whiteness, In the great silence of snow, A child was sighing and bitterly saying: Oh, They have killed a white bird up there on her nest,'
For the Life of This Planet, Grace Nichols ‘ The way the red sun surrenders its wholeness to curving ocean bit by bit. The way curving ocean gives birth to the birth of stars in the growing darkness, wearing everything in its path to cosmic smoothness’

Poems to Celebrate Burns Night

Up in the Morning Early ,Robert Burns 'Cauld blaws the wind frae east to west, The drift is driving sairly; Sae loud and shrill's I hear the blast, I'm sure it's winter fairly.'

Celebrating 35 Years of Poems on the Underground

Poems by the Founders Judith Chernaik, Gerard Benson, Cicely Herbert

Tortoise, Judith Chernaik ' Under the mottled shell of the old tortoise beats the heart of a young dancer. '
In a Young Time, Gerard Benson ‘ In a young time it was skipping and sunlight and the world was acres and there was plunder.’
Everything Changes, 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.’

Poems displayed in December can be found on our ‘December Poems’ page