October 2022

Guinep, Olive Senior 'Our mothers have a thing about guinep: Mind you don't eat guinep in your good clothes. It will stain them.'

Look out for our Black History Month Leaflet at selected London Underground stations through October.

We are delighted to mark Black History Month with a selection of poems by Black poets with close links to England, Scotland, North America, the Caribbean and Africa. The poets include Nobel Prizewinners, poet laureates and performance artists, all reflecting in different ways on their individual experience.

We hope you enjoy the wonderful range, artistry and continued relevance of these poems, which over time have reached the three million daily travellers on London’s Underground system.

We start this month’s poems with a selection of poems that have featured on London Underground since 2020, and follow this with all the poems that are in our Black History Month Leaflet in their original poster form.

You can find our Black History Month Leaflet here

Poems Celebrating Black History Month

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)
Praise Song for My Mother by Grace Nichols 'You were water to me deep and bold and fathoming You were moon’s eye to me pull and grained and mantling You were sunrise to me rise and warm and streaming You were the fishes red gill to me the flame tree’s spread to me the crab’s leg/the fried plantain smell replenishing replenishing Go to your wide futures, you said' Reprinted by permission of Curtis Brown from I Have Crossed an Ocean: Selected Poems (Bloodaxe 2010)
Upwards (for Ty Chijioke) after Christopher Gilbert by Raymond Antrobus ' The last place the sun reaches in my garden is the back wall where the ivy grows above the stinging nettles. What are they singing to us? Is it painless to listen? Will music soothe our anxious house? Speech falls on things like rain sun shades all the feelings of having a heart. Here, take my pulse, take my breath, take my arms as I drift off ' Reprinted by permission of Picador from All the Names Given (2021)
from Beacon of Hope (for John La Rose) by Linton Kwesi Johnson ' welcome nocturnal friend I name you beacon of hope tonight fear fades to oblivion as you guide us beyond the stars to a new horizon tomorrow a stranger will enter my hut my cave my cool cavern of gloom I will give him bread he will bring good news from afar I will give him water he will bring a gift of light'
Rising, Jean Binta Breeze having some summers gone dug out that old tree stump that darkened my garden having waited without planting (for it was impossible then to choose the growth) having lost the dream but not the art of healing having released the roots of pain into content I now stir the skies
Dei Miracole by Lemn Sissay ' The spirit of structure can’t be foreseen, For somewhere between The architecture and the dream More than the sum of its parts Somehow, somewhere, the heart.' Copyright Listener by Lemn Sissay, 2008. First published in Great Britain by Canongate Books Ltd.

And If I Speak of Paradise

And if I speak of Paradise, Roger Robinson ‘And if I speak of Paradise then I’m speaking of my grandmother who told me to carry it always on my person, concealed, so no one else would know but me.’
Moment in a Peace March, Grace Nichols ‘A holy multitude pouring Moment in a Peace March through the gates of Hyde Park – A great hunger repeated in cities all over the world’
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
Benediction, James Berry 'Thanks to the ear that someone may hear Thanks to seeing that someone may see'
World Poems on the Underground Toussaint L’Ouverture Acknowledges Wordsworth’s Sonnet ‘To Toussaint L’Ouverture’   John Agard. I have never walked on Westminster Bridge or had a close-up view of daffodils
Barter, Nii Ayikwei Parkes ‘That first winter alone, the true meaning Barter of all the classroom rhymes that juggled snow and go, old and cold, acquired new leanings.’

History and Away

History and Away, Andrew Salkey 'What we do with time and what time does with us is the way of history, spun down around our feet. So we say today, that we meet our Caribbean shadow just as it follows the sun, away into the curve of tomorrow. In fact our sickle of islands and continental strips are mainlands of time with our own marks on them, yesterday, today and tomorrow.'
African Poems on the Underground: Season, Wole Soyinka. Rust is ripeness, rust And the wilted corn- plume
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'
dreamer, Jean Binta Breeze 'roun a rocky corner by de sea seat up pon a drif wood yuh can fine she gazin cross de water a stick eena her han tryin to trace a future in de san'

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!'
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'

Mama Dot

Mama Dot, Fred D’Aguiar ' Born on a sunday in the kingdom of Ashante Sold on monday into slavery Ran away on tuesday cause she born free Lost a foot on wednesday when they catch she Worked all thursday till her head grey Dropped on friday where they burned she Freed on saturday in a new century'
Free, Merle Collins 'Born free to be caught and fashioned and shaped and freed to wander within a caged dream of tears'
Map of the New World: Archipelagoes , Derek Walcott ' At the end of this sentence, rain will begin. At the rain's edge, a sail. Slowly the sail will lose sight of islands; into a mist will go the belief in harbours of an entire race. The ten-years war is finished. Helen's hair, a grey cloud. Troy, a white ashpit by the drizzling sea. The drizzle tightens like the strings of a harp. A man with clouded eyes picks up the rain and plucks the first line of the Odyssey.'
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'
Ibadan J.P. Clark-Bekederemo ' Ibadan, running splash of rust and gold - flung and scattered among seven hills like broken china in the sun.'
The Palm Trees at Chigawe. Jack Mapanje 'You stood like women in green Proud travellers in panama hats and java print'

Sun A-Shine, Rain A- Fall

Sun a-shine, rain a-fall, Valerie Bloom 'Sun a-shine, rain a-fall, The Devil an' him wife cyan 'gree at all, The two o'them want one fish-head, The Devil call him wife bonehead, She hiss her teeth, call him cock-eye, Greedy, worthless an 'workshy, While them busy callin' name, The puss walk in, sey is a shame To see a nice fish go to was'e, Lef' with a big grin pon him face.'
Viv, Faustin Charles Like the sun rising and setting Like the thunderous roar of a bull rhino Like the sleek, quick grace of a gazelle,
On the Thames, Karen McCarthy Woolf ‘The houseboat tilts into the water at low tide, ducklings slip in mud. Nothing is stable in this limbo summer, where he leaves his shoes in the flat.’
The London Eye, Patience Agbabi 'Through my gold-tinted Gucci sunglasses, the sightseers. Big Ben's quarter chime strikes the convoy of number 12 buses that bleeds into the city's monochrome. Through somebody's zoom lens, me shouting to you, "Hello...on...bridge...'minster!' The aerial view postcard, the man writing squat words like black cabs in rush hour. The South Bank buzzes with a rising treble. You kiss my cheek, formal as a blind date. We enter Cupid's Capsule, a thought bubble where I think, 'Space age!', you think 'She was late.' Big Ben strikes six, my SKIN. Beat blinks, replies 18.02. We're moving anti-clockwise.'
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.'
Dew, Kwame Dawes ' This morning I took the dew from the broad leaf of the breadfruit tree, and washed the sleep from my eyes.

Poems displayed in September 2022 can be found on our September 2022 Page