It’s all gone a bit Suzy Wong in London lately; it seems the city has gone mental for the Oriental this February and London Underground has not been immune. As part of the China in London season, and as part of its 20th birthday celebrations, Poems on the Underground will feature six Chinese poems on London Underground trains that span 2,000 years of civilisation. Don’t worry if you can’t read Chinese – poems will be displayed in their original language as well as in translations by writers such as Vikram Seth and Ezra Pound.
As part of the cultural exchange, the Shanghai Metro will simultaneously being featuring poems by William Wordsworth, William Blake, Percy Shelley and Kathleen Jamie (who?) which will give commuters in London and in Shanghai simultaneous glimpses into another culture while sharing the same experience of rush hour, platform rage and complaining about the annual increase in fare prices.
According to Tamsin Dillon, Head of Platform for Art at LU, which supports Poems on the Underground, "This initiative is planned as the first of a series of cultural collaborations between the Shanghai Metro and London Underground." If this poetry exchange can shed light on how to make the Northern line run smoothly as well as enliven our spirits with a few well chosen words, we’d be more than happy to see this cultural swapshop run and run.
Keep an eye out for these Chinese poems that promise to give a glimpse into a different and more Eastern way of thinking and feeling. If you think you’ll miss them or want more, the Chinese Poems on the Underground will be launched at 6.30pm on Monday 6th February at the British Library. Included in the programme will be readings of Chinese and English poetry: Benjamin Britten's Songs from the Chinese, with tenor Richard Edgar-Wilson and guitarist Xuefei Yang; Tan Dun's music for Crouching Tiger, with cellist David Chernaik; and a lecture by Qu Lei Lei about the art of calligraphy.
Chinese Poems on the Underground will be featured on London Underground trains and at Charing Cross station throughout February. For more information about the launch event on Monday 6th February, please go to the British Library website to book tickets and for more information.