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London Underground 150: Then and Now

Related project: Poems on the Underground

The first 2013 set of Poems on the Underground, celebrating 150 years of London Underground, has been chosen to reflect London as it was and London as it is now.

The six poems reflect typical aspects of London as seen by Londoners and visitors but also feature the immigrant experience so important to postwar London and to the Tube, in poems by the British-Ghanaian poet Nii Ayikwei Parkes and the distinguished Jamaican poet Lorna Goodison.

The poems include Wordsworth’s description of London in 1805 (‘The river proudly bridged’), shown next to a 2012 drawing of Southwark Bridge by David Gentleman, who designed the mural at Charing Cross Tube station;

Vacillation by the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats, a moving personal account of the experience of ‘a solitary man’ in wartime London (1915)

Stations by the Londoner Connie Bensley, with her typical humour describing modern love on the Northern Line

Gherkin Music by the award-winning London poet Jo Shapcott, capturing the iconic shape of the modernist City building in a celebration of architecture, science, poetry, and music

Barter by Nii Ayikwei Parkes, a poignant account of a young Ghanaian immigrant longing for human contact, finding his way in a cold London winter

Bam Chi Chi La La: London, 1969 by Lorna Goodison, describing the dreams of a Jamaican teacher working as a charwoman in the West End. (The title refers to a popular Jamaican children’s rhyme)

Poems are selected by writer Judith Chernaik and poets Gerard Benson and Cicely Herbert.

"We hope Tube travellers will enjoy these poems of London life, snapshots of the great city in all its variety." say Judith Chernaik, founder of Poems on the Underground.

Forthcoming event:

Sunday, 17 March, 7pm-8pm
Keats House, Keats Grove, NW3 2RR

Lorna Goodison, Nii Ayikwei Parkes and Jo Shapcott join Poems on the Underground editors for a celebration of London poems.

Tickets £6 from Keats House, include wine.  Advance booking advised.

keatshouse@cityoflondon.gov.uk | 020 7332 3868

Poems on the Underground is supported by TfL/LU, Arts Council England and the British Council and are available from the London Transport Museum and the Poetry Society.

Publication: Poems on the Underground: A New Edition (Particular Books)

Published by Penguin Books in 2012