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.

Our second set of poems for 2020 is now on trains. These poems are:

Cordón by Laura Chelar, translated by Erica Mena

Time to be slow by John O'Donohue

Everything changes by Cicely Herbert

London Fields by Michael Rosen

Note by Leanne O'Sullivan and

A Portable Paradise by Roger Robinson

And if I speak of Paradise
then I'm speaking of my grandmother
who told me to carry it always
on my person, concealed, so
no one else would know but me.
That way they can't steal it, she'd say.
And if life puts you under pressure,
trace its ridges in your pocket,
smell its piney scent on your handkerchief,
hum its anthem under your breath.
And if your stresses are sustained and daily,
get yourself to an empty room - be it hotel,
hostel or hovel - find a lamp
and empty your paradise onto a desk:
your white sands, green hills and fresh fish.
Shine the lamp on it like the fresh hope
of morning,and keep staring at it till you sleep.

As well as these six poems, a new London Poems on the Underground leaflet is available here and at Zone 1 stations. As London reopens, this series of poems provides a chance to reflect on the joys of what the city has to offer, as well as celebrate Londonders. It features cover artwork by David Gentleman.

More information is available at poemsontheunderground.org.