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Picture of the Whalesong poem seen on the tube

Posted on 17 November 2010, 7:26

On the Piccadilly Line today, rattling into London, I was about to settle into a book when my eye caught a poem where an advert should be. It was a beautiful and slow piece called Whalesong and is by Sophie Stephenson-Wright, one of three teenage poets who won a Poetry Society competition. Their three poems are now showing across the tube system.

Over 24 years of being crushed up against my fellow Londoners on the tube, the Poems on the Underground project (which began in 1986) has often given me a little window, with fresh air and light blowing through it, even though I’m deep underground at the time. At their best, the short poems create space for thought and wonder, or just for comedy and admiration.

Read more about the Young Poets on the Underground, and/or buy a copy of the just-out paperback of Best Poems on the Underground, which is the 2010 collection.

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Truly lovely. Beautiful, slow and a little sad. Thanks for posting it.

Howard, Tue 30 Nov, 16:14

I’ve always liked Poems on the Underground and wish there were more.

One day a few years ago in a crowded Tube train I glanced up and my eyes fell on Louis MacNeice’s ‘Snow’. It was one of those moments when the world just seems to stop for an instant, and your perspective shifts. This is what good art is about.

Ariel, Sat 27 Nov, 13:42

Just as I was reading your piece, it struck me that the very underground nature of most tube travel chimed exactly with a whale’s own underwater world. A tube train swimming through the earth, eventually coming up for air.

Catherine von Ruhland, Thu 18 Nov, 03:39

Whalesong was quite good, and the idea of posting it on the underground is superb. Not only do the young poets get exposure for their writing, but you never know when a person needs a moment of grace, looks up and sees language arranged artfully. A great project.

Catherine, Wed 17 Nov, 23:00

That’s a great poem. I can just hear it read aloud, with faint ocean sounds behind the poet. Different effects with different readers… Maya Angelou. Whintley Phipps. A couple of bass/baritone singers I know. I little girl. It would be cool.

Janine, Wed 17 Nov, 18:48

A beautiful poem… Thank you.

Huw Spanner, Wed 17 Nov, 16:17

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