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British Council, the UK's international organization for cultural relations and educational opportunities, recently launched "Poetry on the Metro" in Shanghai, a new nationwide campaign aiming make commuting more stimulating and inspiring.

By showcasing 40 examples of classical and contemporary British and Chinese poetry on subway spaces in five cities in China - Shanghai, Guangzhou, Chengdu, Chongqing and Nanjing - the campaign hopes to raise awareness of poetry among the masses while also showcasing emerging young poets from both countries.

This is the British Council's latest literary campaign, following the successful "Poems on the Underground" campaign in the UK and last year's "Shakespeare on the Metro" campaign in Shanghai. The latter campaign engaged 3 million commuters in Shanghai with Shakespeare's most famous quotes.

Matthew Knowles, area director of East China of British Council and Consul (Cultural and Education) of British Consulate General in Shanghai, said this year's campaign is "bigger" and "more ambitious."

There are classic works including William Shakespeare's From You Have I Been Absent in the Spring, Percy Shelley's Love's Rose, Alfred Lord Tennyson's Ulysses, Li Bai's Life's Journey is Hard, Du Fu's Delighting in Rain on a Spring Night as well as poems written by emerging young poets born after the 1980s.

All the works will be presented bilingually, translated by Shanghai Translation Association.

Spirit of youth

Jin Chengzhi, director and conductor of Shanghai Rainbow Chamber Singers, famously known for their "overtime dog" choir song, is taking an active part in the new campaign, as his work Eventide is featured among the 40 poems. During the launch ceremony, Jin and Knowles gave a reading of this poem, which tells a story about a family of three and their small dog escaping the world to a small island.

"For me poetry is the best comfort at night. It gives me great comfort when I am in most loneliness and helpless," said Jin.

All 40 poems will be printed out and posted on metro carriages. A poetry wall at Nanjing Road West metro station will also display the poems.

"Poetry on the Metro" is part of a larger theme called "Spirit of Youth," a China-wide campaign aiming to inspire next-generation leaders in China and the UK and promote deeper people-people collaboration and cultural exchange.

"Youth is the springtime of spirit. It's an age of discovery, it's an age of emerging identity and an age of poetry," Knowles said. "I wonder how the poems from our two countries will compare when we put them side by side. I hope it allows us insight into the minds and hearts of the emerging generation."

Organizers and poets at the launch ceremony for the event Tuesday. Photo: Courtesy of British Council


Lin Xiaoying from SPAFFC reads a poem. Photo: Courtesy of British Council

Attendees at the subway Photo: Courtesy of British Council

Matthew Knowles and Jin Chengzhi give a reading at the event. Photo: Courtesy of British Council