July 2023

Celebrating Pride

Hour by Carol Ann Duffy

Hour, Carol Ann Duffy ‘Love’s time’s beggar, but even a single hour, bright as a dropped coin, makes love rich. We find an hour together, spend it not on flowers or wine, but the whole of the summer sky and a grass ditch.’

Celebrating Windrush 75

This summer Poems on the Underground marks the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush in Britain, bringing men, women and children from the Caribbean to help rebuild a war-ravaged country.

British poetry has gained immeasurably from the contribution of Caribbean and Black British voices of the most eloquent, wide-ranging and diverse kinds, reaching the widest possible audience. We are happy to join the Windrush 75 network in celebrating our common humanity.

From June 19th through July, London Underground and Overground cars will feature poets with close Caribbean and British links

This month our website also features poems for a changing world, poems of hope, love and memory, and a selection of Shelley’s poems focussing on his belief in  poetry as an agent of social and political change

New Summer Poems on the Underground

 James Berry, ‘Sea-Song One’ from Windrush Songs, in The Story I Am In: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe Books 2011)

Sea-Song One Come on Seawash of travel Expose new layers of skin Come on calm voice of sea Come and settle on land Sea’s tumble wash Change our rags for riches Come on – tumble wash of sea Clear away the bloody waters Clear away the bloody waters James Berry Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books from Windrush Songs, reprinted in A Story I Am In: Selected Poems (2011)

John Agard, ‘Windrush Child’ (for Vince Reid, the youngest passenger on the Windrush, then aged 13), from Alternative Anthem (Bloodaxe Books 2009)  

Windrush Child (for Vince Reid, at 13 the youngest passenger on the Empire Windrush) Behind you Windrush child palm trees wave goodbye above you Windrush child seabirds asking why around you Windrush child blue water rolling by beside you Windrush child your Windrush mum and dad think of storytime yard and mango mornings and new beginnings doors closing and opening John Agard Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books from Alternative Anthem: Selected Poems (2009)

Benjamin Zephaniah, The London Breed from Too Black, Too Strong (Bloodaxe Books  2001)

The London Breed I love dis great polluted place Where pop stars come to live their dreams Here ravers come for drum and bass And politicians plan their schemes, The music of the world is here Dis city can play any song They came to here from everywhere Tis they that made dis city strong. A world of food displayed on streets Where all the world can come and dine On meals that end with bitter sweets And cultures melt and intertwine, Two hundred languages give voice To fifteen thousand changing years And all religions can rejoice With exiled souls and pioneers. Benjamin Zephaniah Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books from Too Black Too Strong (2001)

Louise Bennett, Colonization in Reverse’ from Jamaica Labrish (1966) 

Colonization in Reverse Wat a joyful news, Miss Mattie, I feel like me heart gwine burs’ Jamaica people colonizin Englan in reverse. By de hundred, by de t’ousan From country and from town, By de ship-load, by de plane-load Jamaica is Englan bound. Dem a-pour out o’ Jamaica, Everybody future plan Is fe get a big-time job An settle in de mother lan. What a islan! What a people! Man an woman, old an young Jusa pack dem bag and baggage An tun history upside dung! Louise Bennett © Louise Bennett 1966 from Jamaica Labrish (Sangsters, 1966)

Kei Miller, ‘The only thing far away’ from There Is an Anger that Moves (Carcanet 2007)

The only thing far away In this country, Jamaica is not quite as far as you might think. Walking through Peckham in London, West Moss Road in Manchester, you pass green and yellow shops where tie-headwomen bargain over the price of dasheen. And beside Jamaica is Spain selling large yellow peppers, lemon to squeeze onto chicken. Beside Spain is Pakistan, then Egypt, Singapore, the world. . . here, strangers build home together, flood the ports with curry and papayas; in Peckham and on Moss Road, the place smells of more than just patty or tandoori. It smells like Mumbai, like Castries, like Princess Street, Jamaica. Sometimes in this country, the only thing far away is this country. Kei Miller Reprinted by permission of Carcanet from There Is an Anger That Moves (2007)

Grace Nichols, Bourda’ from Passport to Here and There (Bloodaxe Books 2020)

Bourda Marvel again at the market stalls singing the earth’s abundance in the heaped-up homegrown freshness of their own vernacular favoured names. Not Aubergine but Balanjay Not Spinach but Calaloo Not Green-beans but Bora Not Chilli but Bird-pepper And not just any mango but the one crowned, Buxton Spice, Still hiding its ambrosia in the roof of my mouth, still flowering like the bird-picked mornings on the branches of my memory. Grace Nichols Reprinted by permission of Bloodaxe Books from Passport to Here and There (2020)

Poems for A Changing World

I Sing of Change by Niyi Osundare

I Sing of Change Niyi Osundare I sing of the beauty of Athens without its slaves Of a world free of kings and queens and other remnants of an arbitrary past

Anti-Slavery Movements by Benjamin Zephaniah

Anti-Slavery Movements. Benjamin Zephaniah 'Some people say Animal liberators are not Working in the interest of animals. But I've never seen liberated animals Protest by going back to their place Of captivity. But then again I've never heard of any liberated slaves Begging for more humiliation Or voting for slavery. Animals vote with their feet Or their wings Or their fins.

The Two Apes of Breughel by Wislawa Szymborska translated by Sharon Olds

The Two Apes of Brueghel by Wislawa Szymborska translated by Sharon Olds 'Here's my dream of a final exam: two apes, in chains, sitting at a window. Outside the sky is flying and the sea bathes. I am taking the test on human history. I stammer and blunder. One ape, staring at me, listens with irony, the other seems to doze- but when I am silent after a question, she prompts me with a soft clanking of the chain.' Wislawa Szymborska (b.1923) Translated by Sharon Olds © Quarterly Review of Literature Poems on the Underground

Everything Changes by Cicely Herbert after Brecht

Everything Changes, after Brecht Alles wandelt sich ,Cicely Herbert ‘ Alles wandelt sich. Neu beginnen Kannst du mit dem letzten Atemzug. Aber was geschehen, ist geschehen. Und das Wasser Das du in den Wein gossest, kannst du Nicht mehr herausschütten. Was geschehen, ist geschehen. Das Wasser Das du in den Wein gossest, kannst du Nicht mehr herausschütten, aber Alles wandelt sich. Neu beginnen Kannst du mit dem letzten Atemzug. 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.'

The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens

The Man with the Blue Guitar by Wallace Stevens 'The man bent over his guitar, A shearsman of sorts. The day was green. They said, ' You have a blue guitar, You do not play things as they are.' The man replied, 'Things as they are Are changed upon the blue guitar.' And they said then, 'But play, you must, A tune beyond us, yet ourselves, A tune upon the blue guitar Of things exactly as they are.' I ,1-10

Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon

Everyone Sang by Siegfried Sassoon Poems on the Underground 1999 poster 'Everyone suddenly burst out singing; And I was filled with such delight As prisoned birds must find in freedom, Winging wildly across the white Orchards and dark-green fields; on - on - and out of sight. Everyone's voice was suddenly lifted; And beauty came like the setting sun: My heart was shaken with tears; and horror Drifted away ... O, but Everyone Was a bird; and the song was wordless; the singing will never be done.'

Poems of Love and Hope

Love Without Hope by Robert Graves

Love Without Hope, Robert Graves 'Love without hope, as when the young bird-catcher Swept off his tall hat to the Squire's own daughter, So let the imprisoned larks escape and fly Singing about her head, as she rode by.'

Hope by Edith Södergran translated by Herbert Lomas

Hope by Edith Södergran (1892 - 1923) translated by Herbert Lomas' I want to let go - so I don't give a damn about fine writing, I'm rolling my sleeves up. The dough's rising ... Oh what a shame I can't bake cathedrals ... that sublimity of style I've always yearned for ... Child of our time - haven't you found the right shell for your soul? Before I die I shall bake a cathedral.'

Idyll by U.A. Fanthorpe

IDYLL by U.A. Fanthorpe (b. 1929) ' Not knowing even that we're on the way, Until suddenly we're there. How shall we know? There will be blackbirds, in a late March evening Blur of woodsmoke, whisky in grand glasses, A poem of yours, waiting to be read; and one of mine; A reflective bitch, a cat materialised On a knee. All fears of present and future Will be over, all guilts forgiven. Maybe, heaven. Or maybe We can get so far in this world. I'll believe we can. '

Wild Nights by Emily Dickinson

Love in a Bathtub by Sujata Bhatt

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-'

First Fig by Edna St Vincent Millay

First Fig, Edna St. Vincent Millay 'My candle burns at both ends; It will not last the night; But ah! my foes, and oh, my friends - It gives a lovely light!'

Poems of Memory

Remembering Summer by W.S. Merwin

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’

Almost Without Noticing by Eira Steinberg translated by Herbert Lomas

Almost without Noticing, Eira Stenberg tr. Herbert Lomas ' Almost without noticing, without thinking, it seems, you've arrived where you see far. Thirty years back, more, the path vanishes, thirty years ahead, more, the path vanishes: and you're forced to sit down in your own shadow to think. Memory mother of truth and myth, tell how the terrain divided the stream.'

The Exiles by Iain Crichton Smith translated form the author’s own Gaelic

The Exiles translated from the author's own Gaelic by Iain Crichton Smith (b.1928) ' The many ships that left our country with white wings for Canada. They are like handkerchiefs in our memories and the brine like tears and in their masts sailors singing like birds on branches. That sea of May running in such blue, a moon at night, a sun at daytime, and the moon like a yellow fruit, like a plate on a wall to which they raise their hands like a silver magnet with piercing rays streaming into the heart. ' Reprinted by permission of Carcanet from Selected Poems (1985) Poems on the Underground 1995 The British Council. The British Library (Zweig Programme). Designed by Tom Davidson.

from Requiem by Anna Akhmatova translated by Richard McKane

from Requiem, Anna Akhmatova (1889-1966)Translated by Richard McKane 'The hour of remembrance has drawn close again. I see you, hear you, feel you: the one they could hardly get to the window, the one who no longer walks on this earth, the one who shook her beautiful head, and said: 'Coming here is like coming home.' I would like to name them all but they took away the list and there's no way of finding them. For them I have woven a wide shroud from the humble words I heard among them. I remember them always, everywhere, I will never forget them, whatever comes.'

Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh

Sometimes by Sheenagh Pugh (b. 1950)' Sometimes things don't go after all, from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail, sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well. A people sometimes will step back from war; elect an honest man; decide they care enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor. Some men become what they were born for. Sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.' Reprinted by permission of Seren Books from Selected Poems (1990) © Sheenagh Pugh 1990 100 Poems on the Underground

And Yet the Books by Czeslaw Milosz translated by Czeslaw Milosz and Robert Hass

And Yet the Books, Czeslaw Milosz Poems on the Underground 2006 ' 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.'

Poems by Percy Bysshe Shelley


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.'

To Emilia V 

To Emilia V - by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822) Music, when soft voices die, Vibrates in the memory - Odours, when sweet violets sicken, Live within the sense they quicken. Rose leaves, when the rose is dead, Are heaped for the beloved's bed - And so thy thoughts, when thou art gone, Love itself shall slumber on... Manuscript reproduced by permission of the Bodleian Library University of Oxford, MS. Shelley Adds. e.8, p.154 Poems on the Underground

The World’s Great Age Begins Anew (Chorus from Hellas)

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:'

With a Guitar To Jane

With a Guitar To Jane, P.B. Shelley 'Ariel to Miranda:- Take This slave of music for the sake Of him who is the slave of thee; And teach it all the harmony, In which thou canst, and only thou, Make the delighted spirit glow,'

from ‘Adonais’

from Adonais, Percy Bysshe Shelley He is made one with Nature: there is heard His voice in all her music, from the moan Of thunder, to the song of night’s sweet bird; He is a presence to be felt and known In darkness and in light, from herb and stone, Spreading itself where’er that Power may move Which has withdrawn his being to its own; Which wields the world with never wearied love, Sustains it from beneath, and kindles it above.

from Ode to the West Wind     

from Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley 'Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is: What if my leaves are falling like its own! The tumult of thy mighty harmonies Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone, Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce, My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one! Drive my dead thoughts over the universe Like withered leaves to quicken a new birth! And, by the incantation of this verse, Scatter, as from an unextinguished hearth Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind! Be through my lips to unawakened Earth The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind, If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?'

You can see our poems from June 2023 here