Posts Tagged ‘strangers’

Half of under-12s admit speaking to strangers online – The Times

In Internet, Newspaper Contributions, Social Affairs on February 16, 2016 at 5:10 pm

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Underground Poetry Feature – The Cadaverine Magazine

In Features on November 4, 2012 at 4:57 pm

Underground Poetry, a grassroots movement, is using guerrilla tactics to deliver poetry to the commuting masses of London. Their aim is to bring everyone closer together through shared experience. Founded in March 2010, and not to be confused with Poems on the Underground (which is celebrating its 25th year) the one man operation has since expanded into a team of ten. Underground Poetry distributes around 1,000 A5 flyers once a month of poetry, each presenting five to twenty poems – snapshots of someone’s life captured in a few lines; written by travellers for travellers. Every leaflet and poem allows you to really wonder whether the stranger sat next to you could have written it. Today, it is more common to see people scrolling through messages on their phone, listening to their iPod and reading a book or paper rather than engaging in musings of the poetic kind. Instead, we choose to plug in and tune out to the real people around us. We become somewhat disconnected from ourselves, from each other. Within the core of London city life, deep underground in the realm of the scheduled, regulated machinations of Tube-people who run like clockwork checking their watch, dusting their jacket, checking their watch – why would they care about a bright, eager face whose hand extends to give free poetry?

Taking public transport enters you into a social contract, one in which you are complicit with your fellow passengers for the duration of your journey. But that does not stop the Machiavellian pushing, elbowing, biting and clawing that allows us to get to where we want to go. If that means pushing the mother and three kids out of the carriage then so be it. The concern with Underground Poetry as a currently self-funded organisation is whether or not it will be able to negotiate some sort of deal between its hope to grow whilst covering costs of its website, free leaflets and aspirations. But what does the future hold considering our fervent dependence on electronic media? Is it really possible for us to pause and take the time to empathise with others on their journey instead? This begs the question as to whether or not there is any difference between a flyer containing poetry and litter yet to be binned. Even for those who do read it, where will it end up when they’ve finished?

The point is not so much where the poetry will literally end up, as opposed to its potential to trigger some sort of response which will swirl around your head for a while. It wants you to embrace other people, cultures, thoughts, yourself. Underground Poetry’s founder, Nina Ellis, explains how despite the ‘fantastic’ and ‘great’ direction of online media ‘we’re going to stick to the personal, physical, tangible leaflets […] we want it to feel personal.’ It is this emphasis on the personal that adds so much personality to the movement. Nina continues to emphasise one’s anonymity in a city like London and offers Underground poetry as a helpful cure:

‘Receiving a tangible leaflet of poetry from a well-meaning stranger can make them feel less alone, and less lonely… And that’s because the touch involved creates a sort of bond between two (or more) people that can’t be recreated electronically. It’s sort of like the difference between getting a letter in the post and getting a mass-sent-out email.’

Every day, millions of us use public transport, sharing an allocated portion of our time in a confined space with complete strangers. Of course we often think about those characters that are bound up and thrust in our direction such as that person you shared a smile with that one time, when you were on your way somewhere. But now there is finally a way to bind us together, ratifying and closing our contract in order to solidify that unspoken connection. You are allowed a glimpse into the psyche of that old man who sat in the very seat you are now sat in eight days ago, just before he got off at Goodge Street to meet an old friend. Underground Poetry stamps its mark on every flyer, leaving you with contact details to submit your own poetry, if you so desire.

Underground Poetry’s ambition for a world of interactive, interchangeable perspectives reaffirms our natural curiosity about fellow strangers that catch our eye. The Movement is moving. Having requests to set up in Bristol and Toronto, along with their own small yet expanding team, Underground Poetry is generating great interest above the surface. The burning question surrounding all the hype is ultimately, will it last? The idea that Underground Poetry is merely an idealistic, kitschy fad is negated by the sheer passion of those running it. Their mission statement explains their goal ‘to bring London Underground travellers into meaningful contact with each other through poetry.’ And so they should. It is strange, that you can spend months, perhaps years of your life not even thinking about who you share that time with. It is a quintessentially British characteristic to uphold stoical etiquette when taking public transportation. But surely, today, in our beautiful, messed-up country which is fighting two wars, what we need is unity, empathy – or at the very least, something to cheer us up and add a little meaning to the humdrum routine of things.

Underground Poetry deserves to thrive and continue encouraging our poetic sides to emerge. The test will come in the form of whether it can stand up and face the power of the iPad, the Kindle and all other distractions that only serve to isolate ourselves from each other. So next time you are sat on the Tube and you hear an old man coughing, you could be reading his poem about the trauma of war, what he thinks or thought constituted love or his favourite TV show, and really empathise with the people of poetry.

Underground Poetry –

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