October Poems on the Underground

We are delighted to mark Black History Month with a selection of poems by Black poets with close links to England, Scotland, the United States, the Caribbean and Africa. The poets include Nobel Prizewinners, poet laureates and performance poets, reflecting in different ways on their individual experience, their sense of the past and hope for the future.

Poems Celebrating Black History Month

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.’
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'
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'
Guinep, Olive Senior 'Our mothers have a thing about guinep: Mind you don't eat guinep in your good clothes. It will stain them.'
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'
The Palm Trees at Chigawe. Jack Mapanje 'You stood like women in green Proud travellers in panama hats and java print'
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'

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.’
Love Poems on the Underground Promise   Jackie Kay. Remember, the time of year when the future appears like a blank sheet of paper
Dew, Kwame Dawes ' This morning I took the dew from the broad leaf of the breadfruit tree, and washed the sleep from my eyes.

Caribbean Poems on the Underground

A song for England, Andrew Salkey 'An' a so de rain a-fall An 'a so de snow a-rain An 'a so de fog a-fall An 'a so de sun a-fail'
Bam Chi Chi La La London, 1969, Lorna Goodison ‘In Jamaica she was a teacher. Here, she is charwoman at night in the West End. She eats a cold midnight meal carried from home’
Chilling Out Beside the Thames, John Agard ‘Summer come, mi chill-out beside the Thames. Spend a little time with weeping willow.’
A dream of leavin, James Berry ' Man, so used to notn, this is a dream I couldn't dream of dreamin so - I scare I might wake up. One day I would be Englan bound! A travel would have me on sea not chained down below, every tick of clock, but free, man! Free like tourist! Never see me coulda touch world of Englan - when from all accounts I hear that is where all we prosperity end up. I was always in a dream of leavin. My half-finished house was on land where work-laden ancestors' bones lay. The old plantation land still stretch-out down to the sea, giving grazing to cattle.'
Epilogue , Grace Nichols ' I have crossed an ocean I have lost my tongue from the roots of the old one a new one has sprung'
The Thing Not Said, E.A. Markham ‘We need life-jackets now to float On words which leave so much unsaid.’
Mmenson, Kamau Brathwaite 'Summon now the kings of the forest, horn of the elephant, mournful call of the elephant;'

African Poems on the Underground

African Poems on the Underground Et nous baignerons mon amie Léopold Sédar Senghor, tr. Gerard Benson we shall be bathed, my love in the presence of Africa
African Poems on the Underground: Tin Roof: Nii Ayikwei Parkes. Wild harmattan winds whip you but still you stay;
African Poems on the Underground: Inside My Zulu Hut Oswald Mbuyiseni Mtshali. It is a hive without any bees to build the walls with golden bricks of honey.

African Poems on the Underground: from Poem to Her Daughter Mwana Kupona binti Msham. Daughter, take this amulet, tie it with cord and caring,
Nightsong: City, Dennis Brutus 'Sleep well, my love, sleep well: the harbour lights glaze over restless docks, police cars cockroach through the tunnel streets;'

Poems displayed in September can be found on our ‘September Poems’ Page