Poems on the Underground

Still with the London trip…I don’t know how Londoners manage it, day in, day out, byut riding the underground I find a pretty dreadful experience. Packed in, silent, tense – one of the first things I noticed back in Liverpool, on the bus home from the station, was the noise of chatter and laughter, people interacting and enjoying each others company.

However, one thing that made a tube journey bearable, I found, was Poems on the Underground: every season, six poems are selected to be displayed in tube carriages across London. These are two that I appreciated on my peregrinations: Anne Stevenson’s ‘It Looks so Simple from a Distance’ anda passage  from ‘In Memoriam by Alfred Lord Tennyson.

Poems on the Underground was launched in 1986. The programme was the brainchild of American writer Judith Chernaik, whose aim was to bring poetry to the wide ranging audience of passengers on the Underground. In 2000, more than 3.5 million journeys were made each day. Judith Chernaik, together with poets Cicely Herbert and Gerard Benson, continue to select poems for inclusion in the programme.

London Underground sponsors the programme by donating the space, and helping with the cost of design and production. Sponsorship is also received from The British Council, London Arts, The Poetry Society and The Arts Council of England.

Special themes and projects have also been sponsored by the Commonwealth Institute and the British Tourist Authority. New sets of poems generally appear three times each year and are displayed in advertising spaces within the trains. Contemporary and historical poems are included as the programme aims to give a wide variety of choice and style. Works from established and emerging poets from around the world are used.

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