The Salt Publishing blog has been involved in the Facebook campaign to restore Sue Hubbard’s Eurydice to the London underground spoke this morning at their delight in the poem’s restoration. The poem had been painted over to the sadness of travellers and poets. I will be adding a link in here which carries with it the history of the destruction of the image and it’s restoration to public view. There will also be a link to the Salt Publishing blog at the end of this short post: 18/01/2010
Ten years ago, as part of the renovation of the South Bank undertaken by Avery Architects, the Arts Council and the BFI commissioned the award-winning poet and art critic Sue Hubbard to write a poem for the underpass that leads from Victory Arch at Waterloo Station to the IMAX cinema. Written in a series of three-lined stepped stanzas the poem was set out so that it could be read whilst walking through the tunnel. Using the metaphor of Eurydice descending into the underworld it aimed to make walkers feel safe. As well as the classical myth, the poem’s imagery makes reference to London’s Thameside history and to the famous Waterloo clock, a meeting point in so many British films.
As an example of innovative public art, it has been written about in architectural journals and was the subject of a commissioned essay from Sue Hubbard by The Poetry Society, Opening Spaces, written during her residency as The Poetry Society’s only Public Art Poet. It formed the backdrop to a National Film School production will you forget me? (Stephen Bennet) and Lifelines, a Channel 4 drama produced by Carnival films. The poem has also been requested on Radio 4’s Poetry Please. “
by Sue Hubbard
I am not afraid as I descend,
step by step, leaving behind the salt wind
blowing up the corrugated river,
the damp city streets, their sodium glare
of rush-hour headlights pitted with pearls of rain;
for my eyes still reflect the half remembered moon.
Already your face recedes beneath the station clock,
a damp smudge among the shadows
mirrored in the train’s wet glass,
will you forget me? Steel tracks lead you out
past cranes and crematoria,
boat yards and bike sheds, ruby shards
of roman glass and wolf-bone mummified in mud,
the rows of curtained windows like eyelids
heavy with sleep, to the city’s green edge.
Now I stop my ears with wax, hold fast
the memory of the song you once whispered in my ear.
Its echoes tangle like briars in my thick hair.
You turned to look.
Seconds fly past like birds.
My hands grow cold. I am ice and cloud.
This path unravels.
Deep in hidden rooms filled with dust
and sour night-breath the lost city is sleeping.
Above the hurt sky is weeping,
soaked nightingales have ceased to sing.
Dusk has come early. I am drowning in blue.
I dream of a green garden
where the sun feathers my face
like your once eager kiss.
Soon, soon I will climb
from this blackened earth
into the diffident light.
Eurydice , by Sue Hubbard , Ghost Station , publ. Salt.
EDIT : Guardian report at 18.57pm today :
“A mural poem composed to comfort travellers descending into one of Britain’s most dismal underworlds is being recreated after more than 1,000 people who mourned its destruction paid to have it restored.
The poem, Eurydice, is one of the longest pieces of public art in the capital. It was inscribed along a concrete tunnel connecting Waterloo station with the Imax cinema and the South Bank 10 years ago.
It was destroyed last autumn – a fortnight after Time Out magazine listed it as one of London’s best pieces of secret art – when contractors for Network Rail painted over it, claiming to be cleaning up the tunnel.”