(19 September 2017, Shanghai) Today, British Council launches Poetry on the Metro in Shanghai, a nationwide activity, part of the UK’s Spirit of Youth campaign. From 19 September to the end of this year, Poetry on the Metro themed trains will run through the underground systems in Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and Nanjing. There will also be special poetry corners at some stations across the five cities.
The programme is initiated by British Council and has received official support from local partners, including Shanghai People’s Association for Friendship with Foreign Countries, Shanghai Metro, Shanghai Translators Association, Guangzhou Rail Transit, Chengdu Culture, Radio and TV, Press and Publication Bureau, Chongqing Foreign and Overseas Chinese Affairs Office, Chongqing Foreign Publicity Office, Chongqing Municipal Culture Commission and Nanjing Municipal Foreign Affairs Office.
Commuting with Poems
Poetry on the Metro is a public-facing program promoting Chinese and British literature and follows on from the success of Poems on the Underground in London and the British Council’s Shakespeare on the Metro campaign in Shanghai in 2016. As one of the key programs in the Spirit of Youth series of activities, it aims to share the best of Chinese and British poetry, bringing knowledge and fun to our daily metro commutes. Both China and the U.K. have a great wealth history of literature, which can be utilized to promote bilateral cultural communications and active social interactions and impact.
British Council has also partnered with Poetry Island, a self-owned media company, to select and promote 20 Chinese and 20 British poems, highlighting classical, contemporary and international work, with the theme of ‘youth’. Poets include the literary giants such as Shakespeare, Shelley, Li Bai and Xu Zhimo, as well as the post-1980s generation of young poets from both countries, including Sarah Howe and Si Rongyun. Poetry Island and Shanghai Translators Association have worked together to translate the selected poems. Excerpts of these 40 poems are on colourful display throughout metro carriages, on handles and rings and advertisement windows. A QR code enables travelers to view the full texts in Chinese and English, as well as discovering more on-line poetry content.
This large-scale activity covers 5 cities across the country and has gained official support from local governments. In Shanghai, each Poetry on the Metro themed train along Line 2 receives nearly 26,000 passengers a day. Each and every line on the Shanghai metro system will run themed trains showcasing these poems. Poem video walls at West Nanjing Road Station, Xintiandi Station, Tiantong Road Station, Shanghai Swimming Center Station and Jinshajiang Road Station highlight 12 of the 40 poems, attracting passengers to stop and appreciate the works. Among the poems is Beicha Gardens and The Third Cosmo, which were written by Xiao Shui and Hu Sang who studied, reside or have lived in Shanghai for a long time. Also included among the selected poems is Eventide from The Songs of Eventide written by Jin Chengzhi, Director of Shanghai Rainbow Chamber Singers. During the launch ceremony in Shanghai, Jin Chengzhi read and introduced Eventide himself. Zhu Yu, Hu Sang and Si Rongyun, whose poems were also selected, took part in the launching ceremony.
In Guangzhou, tram cars decorated with poetry-themed displays run along the Pearl River, and at Pati Station there is a poetry themed glass corridor showcasing 15 Chinese and British poems. The poetry-themed tramcar runs slowly along the Pearl River, sharing poetry and bringing a unique new scenery to the city. The launch ceremony included post-1980s poets and directors Mai Ringhao and Cui Ying, who performed an improvisation piece inspired by the poems. In Chengdu and Chongqing, as well as displaying posters on trains through the major metro lines, Chengdu Du Fu Thatched Cottage Museum has chosen Rain in a Spring Night, a poem created by Du Fu, as the theme to carry out an interactive activity with local poets and residents. Similar activity will be held in Nanjing in October.
British Council will also join hands with Poetry Island to carry out on-line cooperation. Poetry Island is a culture and art media company with poetry at its core. They have selected 10 Chinese contemporary poems for an in-depth discussion with young poets and literary art enthusiasts alike. Details of the above discussions will be posted on the official accounts of Poetry Island and UK Now.
In addition, British Council has recorded poetry readings by special guests, including H.E. Dame Barbara Woodward, Ambassador of the U.K. to China and contemporary poet Lanlan, among others. The videos will be posted regularly on the official UK Now account, encouraging poets and literature enthusiasts to comment on key poems. Please follow UK Now on Wechat for more information. Poetry Island has contributed greatly in providing the on-line content.
“British Council has the honor to cooperate with so many local authorities to launch this program. It showcases a sound tradition of poetry and literary in China and the U.K. and creates an integrated on-line and off-line platform to appreciate literature for millions of passengers and more on-line readers. We’re quite happy that some of the contemporary poets are able to make it to the launching ceremony. And I hope this activity can promote communication between Chinese and British poets, and strengthen cultural exchanges between China and the U.K.” said Cortina Butler, Global Literary Director of British Council.