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Poems on the Underground

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Every season, six poems are selected to be displayed in tube carriages across London.

Poems on the Underground will be celebrating the 150th anniversary of the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats throughout 2015.

Our first set of poems for March 2015 features the final stanza of ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, Yeats’ tribute to the timeless power of imagination; and his popular love poem, ‘He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven’.

Also featured are a translation of Antoine O Raifteiri’s Irish verses by Lady Gregory, Yeats’s friend and close associate in the Irish revival; Louis MacNeice’s epigraph to Holes in the Sky (1944); and poems by the distinguished contemporary Irish poets Eavan Boland and Paula Meehan.

 

War Poems on the Underground are on display in London Underground cars from October 6th through November, with additional posters on London Overground and selected station sites in a major expansion of our programme, supported by TfL. Poems by English, French, Italian and Austrian poets, written during the heat of war service, stress themes of brotherhood and reconciliation, and the ways in which 'we said goodbye to a whole epoch' (Apollinaire).

Our summer set of Poems on the Underground celebrated the centenary of Dylan Thomas, with the opening stanza of his famous autobiographical poem 'Fern Hill and poems by five Welsh poets: Dannie Abse, Owen Sheers, Gillian Clarke, Gwyneth Lewish and Gerard Benson.

2014 began with a Greek Poems on the Underground series. Six poems by Greek, British and Irish poets were displayed in London Underground carriages in honour of the Greek EU presidency and in celebration of the influence of Greek culture on our poetry, prose and art. Sappho and Anyte of Tegea, Constantine Cavafy, Byron, Keats and Theo Dorgan were all featured. The first poster, a bilingual representation of Sappho and Antyte of Tegea, is displayed below.

Below is the summer 2013 set of Poems on the Underground, continuing a year-long celebration of the 150th year of London Underground. The poems evoke a broad range of London places and sights, as imagined by poets with close London connections. The earliest poem is William Blake’s vision of Islington and Marylebone, Kentish Town and St Pancras transformed into a new Jerusalem. A 21st-century poem by the Ghanaian-born poet Grace Nichols presents an equally visionary image of one of London’s great peace marches, with ‘a holy multitude pouring / through the gates of Hyde Park.’ Other familiar London scenes include a traffic jam on the Strand; a nostalgic memory of cricket at Lord’s; an old man in Rotherhithe enjoying the breeze from the Thames. The Underground itself is represented in a vivid image of a train approaching the platform– part of a series of love poems by the London-born poet Andrew Waterman.

 

Read past releases of Poems on the Underground here

 

Following the death last year of our dear friend and colleague Gerard Benson, the poets Imtiaz Dharker and George Szirtes will be joining us as members of the Editorial Committee, alongside Judith Chernaik and Cicely Herbert, who with Gerard founded Poems on the Underground in 1986.

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