ITN London Underground Commission

Happy Birthday London Underground, 150 years old.  ITV's news programme 'London Tonight' asked the Poetry Society to commission a poem to mark the Tube's anniversary. John Hegley wrote a poem on the spot. Here's his poem, 'Of Mice and Many'. Written, filmed and broadcast on 11 January 2013. Click here to see John Hegley perform the poem.

Of Mice and Many

When Judith from the Poetry Society
Asked me if I might have a word
About the Tube,
I told her that Georges Braque was my favourite painter.
She seemed dubious,
In doubt.
I meant that Georges Braque had been a Cubist.
I had mis-heard.
It was Tubism she wanted me to write about:

Turnham Green and Camden Town
Where Air Raid huddles laid them down.

Neasden, Willesden, Dollis Hill,
Tottenham Hale and Hearty, still.

Thankyou London Underground.

And all your staff, who get me round.
How deep you are.
I still find it astounding how deep you are.
When you are off, we’re off on rants
We cram the bus
And as we crawl like ants upon the surface… then we know
The rich resource that’s down below.
The tube is Lubricating.

In February, I’m booked to go
To Jackson’s Lane to do a show – by bus, is my intention, yes
But how glad I am that Highgate Station’s less
Than fifty yards across the road.

The tube is a nourishing subterranean facility. Like a potato.
A tuber-system.

Since that first open carriage load,
Our Underground, how it has grown, and flourished.
Now, groan I do, I must admit
When I have to sit and wait and wait
For a service to get through
At Edgware Road, but that station does have to accommodate
The Metropolitan, The Hammersmith and City, The Circle,
    The District and the Bakerloo line.

So, here’s to the gaps, the maps
And the elapse of a hundred and fifty years since that first
Steaming monster hurled
Through its Metropolitan Minotaur world
To all the billiard ball-bottomed straps onto which I’ve hung.
And here’s to the police officer, who when I was illegally
    busking outside Westminster Station, approached me and said,

‘Do you know any Neil Young?’

John Hegley