September 2021

Poetry enables a voice to speak even in silence, in difficult times. This month we feature Poems for the World, including ‘My Voice’, by the poet Partaw Naderi from Afghanistan

We follow this with a selection of Autumn poems and Poems of Love and Hope.

We continue our celebration of 35 years of Poems on the Underground with poems from 1,000 Years of Poetry in English and London Poems on the Underground.

Poems for the World

My Voice ,Partaw Naderi Translated by Sarah Maguire and Yama Yari ' I come from a distant land with a foreign knapsack on my back with a silenced song on my lips As I travelled down the river of my life I saw my voice (like Jonah) swallowed by a whale And my very life lived in my voice' Kabul, December 1989
Free, Merle Collins 'Born free to be caught and fashioned and shaped and freed to wander within a caged dream of tears'
Anise Koltz Tr. John Montague , The Birds Will Still Sing ' Les oiseaux continuent à chanter Abattez mes branches sciez-moi en morceaux les oiseaux continuent à chanter dans mes racines The Birds Will Still Sing Break my branches saw me into bits the birds will still sing in my roots'
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.'
25 February 1944 Primo Levi tr. Eleonora Chiavetta ' I wish I could believe in something beyond, Beyond the death that has undone you. I wish I could tell of the strength With which we longed then, Already drowned, To walk together once again Free under the sun.'
1915 I Know the Truth - Give up All Other Truths! , Marina Tsvetayeva (1892-1941) translated by Elaine Feinstein 'I know the truth - give up all other truths! No need for people anywhere on earth to struggle. Look - it is evening, look, it is nearly night: what do you speak of, poets, lovers, generals? The wind is level now, the earth is wet with dew, the storm of stars in the sky will turn to quiet. And soon all of us will sleep under the earth, we who never let each other sleep above it. '
Iain Crichton Smith, The Exiles ' The many ships that left our country with white wings for Canada. They are like handkerchiefs in our memories and the brine like tears'

Autumn Poems on the Underground

Autumn Evening, Matsuo Basho ' Autumn evening- A crow on a bare branch'
from To Autumn, John Keats ' Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; Conspiring with him how to load and bless With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run; To bend with apples the moss’d cottage-trees, And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core; To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, And still more, later flowers for the bees, Until they think warm days will never cease, For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.'
from Autumn Journal, Louis MacNeice ‘September has come, it is hers Whose vitality leaps in the autumn, Whose nature prefers Trees without leaves and a fire in the fireplace . . .’
Small Brown Job, Gwyneth Lewis ‘May you be led on all your walks By an unidentified bird Flitting ahead, at least one branch, The tease, between you And it. Is that an eyeStripe? Epaulette? Your desire For a name grows stronger.’
Disillusionment of Ten O’ Clock, Wallace Stevens ' The houses are haunted By white night-gowns. None are green, Or purple with green rings, Or green with yellow rings, Or yellow with blue rings. None of them are strange, With socks of lace And beaded ceintures. People are not going To dream of baboons and periwinkles. Only, here and there, an old sailor, Drunk and asleep in his boots, Catches tigers In red weather.'

Poems of Love and Hope

This Moment, Eavan Boland 'A neighbourhood. At dusk. Things are getting ready to happen out of sight. Stars and moths. And rinds slanting around fruit. But not yet. One tree is black. One window is yellow as butter. A woman leans down to catch a child who has run into her arms this moment. Stars rise. Moths flutter. Apples sweeten in the dark.''
Distances, Philippe Jaccottet (b.1925) Translated by Derek Mahon 'Les distances Tournent les martinets dans les hauteurs de l' air: plus haut encore tournent les astres invisibles. Que le jour se retire aux extrémités de la terre, apparaîtront ces feux sur l' etendue de sombre sable… Ainsi nous habitons un domaine de mouvements et de distances; ainsi le coeur va de l' arbre à l' oiseau, de l' oiseau aux astres lointains, de l' astre à son amour. Ainsi l' amour dans la maison fermée s' accroît, tourne et travaille, serviteur des soucieux portant une lampe à la main. Swifts turn in the heights of the air; higher still turn the invisible stars. When day withdraws to the ends of the earth their fires shine on a dark expanse of sand. We live in a world of motion and distance. The heart flies from tree to bird, from bird to distant star, from star to love; and love grows in the quiet house, turning and working, servant of thought, a lamp held in one hand. '
A Glass of Water, May Sarton 'Here is a glass of water from my well. It tastes of rock and root and earth and rain; It is the best I have, my only spell, And it is cold, and better than champagne. Perhaps someone will pass this house one day To drink, and be restored, and go his way, Someone in dark confusion as I was When I drank down cold water in a glass, Drank a transparent health to keep me sane, After the bitter mood had gone again.'
Peaceful Waters: Variation, Frederico Garcia Lorca (1898 - 1936) translated by Adrian Mitchell 'peaceful waters of the air under echo's branches peaceful waters of a pool under a bough laden with stars peaceful waters of your mouth under a forest of kisses'
Celia Celia, Adrian Mitchell ' When I am sad and weary When I think all hope has gone When I walk along High Holborn I think of you with nothing on'
I May, I Might, I Must , Marianne Moore ' If you will tell me why the fen appears impassable, I then will tell you why I think that I can get across it If I try.'

Celebrating 35 Years of Poems on the Underground

1,000 Years of Poetry in English

No Man is an Island, John Donne. 'No Man is an Island, Entire of Itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee. '
When I was a Child, 1 Corinthians tr. William Tyndale 'When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I imagined as a child. But as soon as I was a man, I put away childishness. For now we see in a glass, even in a dark speaking: but then shall we see face to face. Now I know imperfectly: but then shall I know even as also I am known. Now abideth faith, hope, and love, even these three: but the chief of these is love.'
After The Fall, Anne Stevenson 'Adam: Lady, I've not had a moment's love since I was expelled. Let me in. Eve: Lord, I've not had a moment's rest since I was a rib. Put me back.'
Road, Don Paterson ' Traveller, your footprints are the only path, the only track: wayfarer, there is no way, there is no map or Northern star, just a blank page and a starless dark; and should you turn round to admire the distance that you've made today the road will billow into dust. No way on and no way back, there is no way, my comrade: trust your own quick step, the end's delay, the vanished trail of your own wake, wayfarer, sea-walker, Christ. (after Antonio Machado) '
Elizabeth Bishop Song 'Summer is over upon the sea. The pleasure yacht, the social being, that danced on the endless polished floor, stepped and side-stepped like Fred Astaire, is gone, is gone, docked somewhere ashore. The friends have left, the sea is bare that was strewn with floating, fresh green weeds. Only the rusty-sided freighters go past the moon's marketless craters and the stars are the only ships of pleasure.'
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'
There Came a Wind Like a Bugle, Emily Dickinson 'There came a wind like a Bugle- It quivered through the grass And a Green Chill upon the Heat So ominous did pass We barred the Windows and the Doors As from an Emerald Ghost- The Doom’s electric Moccasin That very instant passed- On a strange Mob of panting Trees And Fences fled away And Rivers where the Houses ran Those looked that lived—that Day— The Bell within the steeple wild The flying tidings told- How much can come And much can go, And yet abide the World!'

London Poems on the Underground

from To the City of London, William Dunbar ' To the City of London Above all rivers they river hath renown, Whose beryl streames, pleasant and preclare, Under thy lusty walles runneth down; Where many a swan doth swim with winges fair, Where many a barge doth sail, and row with oar, Where many a ship doth rest with top-royal. O town of townes, patron and not compare, London, thou art the flower of cities all. '
London Bells. Anon ' Two Sticks & an Apple, Ring ye Bells at Whitechapple Old Father Bald Pate, Ring ye Bells Aldgate, Maids in white Aprons, Ring ye Bells a St. Cathrines, Oranges and Lemmons, Ring ye Bells at St. Clemens, When will you pay me, Ring ye Bells at ye Old Bailey, When I am Rich, Ring ye Bells at Fleetditch, When will that be, Ring ye Bells at Stepney, When I am Old, Ring ye great Bell at Pauls.'
The Cries of London 'here's fine rosemary, sage and thyme. Come buy my ground ivy. here's fetherfew, gilliflowers and rue.'
Robert Herrick, from His Return to London 'From the dull confines of the drooping West, To see the day spring from the pregnant East, Ravished in spirit, I come, nay more, I fly To thee, blest place of my nativity!.... O fruitful Genius! that bestowest here An everlasting plenty, year by year. O place! O people! Manners! framed to please All nations, customs, kindreds, languages! London my home is, though by hard fate sent Into a long and irksome banishment; Yet since called back; henceforward let me be, O native country, repossessed by thee!'
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’

Poems displayed in August 2021 can be found on our August 2021 page