Poems on the Underground

Poetry on the Underground book

Poems on the Underground was launched in 1986, following an idea from the American writer Judith Chernaik, to bring poetry to a wider audience.

The programme helps to make journeys more stimulating and inspiring by showcasing a range of poetry in Tube train carriages across London. The poems are selected by Judith Chernaik and poets George Szirtes and Imtiaz Dharker.

Poems on the Underground highlights classical, contemporary and international work, by both famous and relatively unknown poets. It has been a great success and has inspired similar schemes in cities around the world, from New York to Shanghai. It's proved to be a great way of introducing the public to poetry, with passengers often wanting to read more.

The scheme is supported by TfL, Arts Council England and The British Council.

Poems on the Underground (Penguin, 2015) contains over 200 poems featured on the Tube and is available from the London Transport Museum shop and all good bookshops.

The second series of poems for 2023 is now on trains. Our summer poems mark the 75th anniversary of the arrival of the Windrush in Britain in June 1948. From June 19th through July, London Underground and Overground cars will display poems by six poets with close Caribbean and British links.

Among the poets featured are James Berry, who came to Britain in September 1948 on the next ship after the Windrush. As a dedicated anthologist, he was instrumental in promoting writing by younger Caribbean poets.

Grace Nichols and John Agard are Guyanese poets who moved to Britain in the 1970s. Both of them were awarded the Queen's Gold Medal for Poetry - Agard in 2012, and Nichols in 2021.

Louise Bennett - also known as 'Miss Lou' - was a Jamaican poet and activist who spent time studying drama and working with repertory companies in England.

Benjamin Zephaniah is a British poet whose work is influenced by the music and poetry of Jamaica.

Kei Miller is a Jamaican poet and novelist who has studied in Manchester and Glasgow before becoming a professor of creative writing..

The poems are:

James Berry, 'Sea-Song One'

John Agard, 'Windrush Child' (for Vince Reid, the youngest passenger on the Empire Windrush, then aged 13)

Grace Nichols, 'Bourda'

Louise Bennett, 'Colonization in Reverse'

Benjamin Zephaniah, 'The London Breed'

Kei Miller, 'The only thing far away'

Windrush Child (for Vince Reid, the youngest passenger on the Empire Windrush, then aged 15)

by John Agard

Behind you

Windrush child

palm trees wave goodbye

above you

Windrush child

seabirds asking why

around you

Windrush child

blue water rolling by

beside you

Windrush child

your Windrush mum and dad

think of storytime yard

and mango mornings

and new beginnings

doors closing and opening