Today sees the launch of a new Poem on the Underground to celebrate the network's 150th year, entitled Thankyou London Underground. It's by John Hegley, comedian and performance poet, and will be appearing in trains as part of Poems on the Underground, which adds culture to your commute. Or at least some of it will. John's original poem Of Mice and Many was rather longer, but has been chopped and trimmed to a couple of verses so that it fits into a single poster space. Gone are some of the less upbeat stanzas, like the slight moan about slow running through Edgware Road, but the nice bit about hanging onto 'billiard ball-bottomed straps' remains.
John's ode also appears, along with eighteen others, in a "free, highly-collectable booklet" containing all the poems that have appeared on the Tube network during this special anniversary year. It's a lovely sturdy booklet with a smart illustrated cover, and can already be found in selected leaflet racks in certain Underground ticket halls. Betjeman and Blake have their place, along with more modern urban and multicultural poets, and I'd definitely recommend trying to get hold of a copy.
I won't reproduce any of the 19 poems here, I'll leave you to discover them for yourself. But what I have done is take the first line of each and reassemble them to create a poem of my own. It almost works, vaguely, but you can't beat the full pocket-sized limited-edition collection.
Great was my joy, with London at my feet -
As in the Underground there's no mistaking
The fields from Islington to Marylebone,
Walk the spiral
Earth has not anything to show more fair:
Tufnell Park and Camden Town,
As he travels home on the Northern line
Evening falls on the smoky walls.
My fiftieth year had come and gone,
That first winter alone, the true meaning
It is little I repair to the matches of the Southron folk,
In Jamaica she was a teacher. Here she is charwoman.
Behold, a swan. Ten houseboats on the Lee.
The houseboat tilts into the water at low tide,
He feels a breeze rise from
The Strand is beautiful with buses,
A holy multitude pouring