November Poems on the Underground

This month’s poems, November 2020

We continue to celebrate Black poets with six poems included in October’s Black History Month leaflet, now available free at London tube stations – poems by Jamaican poet laureate Lorna Goodison, Barbadian Kamau Brathwaite, James Berry, who was part of the Windrush generation who helped to rebuild Britain after the war, Ghanaian Kwame Dawes, Nigerian Niyi Osundare and a new voice in our programme, Nick Makoha, born in Uganda. 

To mark Armistice Day, we are reprinting war poems displayed from 2014-2018 to commemorate the First World War, and touching on wars from the earliest times to the present. 

We follow the war poems with some more ‘favourites’ from earlier sets.

New Poems on the Underground

BOM Mumbai Airport, Nick Makoha 'This far East your thoughts are the edge of the world. It will not be the last time that you walk through a door hoping to return'
Dew, Kwame Dawes ' This morning I took the dew from the broad leaf of the breadfruit tree, and washed the sleep from my eyes.
Benediction, James Berry 'Thanks to the ear that someone may hear Thanks to seeing that someone may see'
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
I am Becoming My Mother, Lorna Goodison ' Yellow/brown woman fingers smelling always of onions My mother raises rare blooms and waters them with tea'
Naima for John Coltrane, Kamau Brathwaite 'Propped against the crowded bar he pours into the curved and silver horn his old unhappy longing for a home'

War Poems on the Underground

Naima for John Coltrane, Kamau Brathwaite 'Propped against the crowded bar he pours into the curved and silver horn his own unhappy longing for a home'
Armistice Day, Charles Causley 'I stood with three comrades in Parliament Square, November her grey freights of fire unloading, '
Heroes, Kathleen Raine ' This war's dead heroes, who has seen them? They rise, in smoke above the burning city, Faint clouds, dissolving into sky'
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'
Inscription for a War, A.D. Hope ' Linger not, stranger; shed no tear; Go back to those who sent us here. We are the young they drafted out To wars their folly brought about'
The place where we are right, Yehuda Amichai ' From the place where we are right flowers will never grow in the spring. the place where we are right is hard and trampled like a yard'
Isaiah 2.4 'And they shall beate their swords into plow-shares, and their speares into pruning hookes; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learne warre any more'
Lost in France, Ernest Rhys ' He had the plowman's strength In the grasp of his hand. He could see a crow Three miles away, And the trout beneath the stone.'
Passing-Bells, Carol Ann Duffy ' That moment when the soldier's soul passed through his wounds, slipped through the staunching fingers of his friend then, like a shadow, ran across a field to vanish, vanish, into empty air...'
Song in Space, Adrian Mitchell ' When man first flew beyond the sky He looked back into the world's blue eye. Man said: What makes your eye so blue? Earth said: The tears in the oceans do'
Futility, Wilfrid Owen ' Move him into the sun- Gently its touch awoke him once, At home, whispering of fields half-sown. Always it woke him, even in France, Until this morning and this snow'
The Morning After (August 1945), Tony Harrison ' The fire left to itself might smoulder weeks. Phone cables melt. Paint peels from off back gates. Kitchen windows crack; the whole street reeks of horsehair blazing. Still it celebrates.'
War Poems on the Underground  On Receiving News of the War  Isaac Rosenberg. Snow is a strange white word. No ice or frost Has asked of bud or bird For Winter's cost.
A Dead Statesman, Rudyard Kipling 'I could not dig: I dared not rob: Therefore I lied to please the mob. Now all my lies are proved untrue And I must face the men I slew.'
An Irish Airman foresees his Death, W.B. Yeats ’ I know that I shall meet my fate Somewhere among the clouds above; Those that I fıght I do not hate, Those that I guard I do not love;’
World Poems on the Underground And now goodbye,  Jaroslav Seifert.  Poetry is with us from the start.
War Poems on the Underground:   For the War Dead A. E. Housman. Here dead lie we because we did not choose To live and shame the land from which we sprung.
The Meaning of Existence, Les Murray ' Everything except language knows the meaning of existence. Trees, planets, rivers, time know nothing else.'

More Favourite Poems on the Underground

You took away all the oceans and all the room, Osip Mandelstam ' You took away all the oceans and all the room. You gave me my shoe-size in earth with bars around it.'
Prospero’s Farewell, William Shakespeare ‘Our revels now are ended. These our actors, As I foretold you, were all spirits, and Are melted into air, into thin air,’
Reconciliation, Walt Whitman ‘Word over all, beautiful as the sky, Beautiful that war and all its deeds of carnage must in time be utterly lost, That the hands of the sisters Death and Night incessantly softly wash again, and ever again, this soil’d world;’
Sisu, Lavinia Greenlaw ‘To persevere in hope of summer. To adapt to its broken promise. To love winter.’
World Poems on the Underground Boy with Orange (out of Kosovo)  Lotte Kramer. A boy holding an orange in his hands has crossed the border in uncertainty
World Poems on the Underground: Finding India in Unexpected Places Sujata Bhatt. A street in Bath, a bus in Medellin, a gesture in Gyeongju

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