Muswell Hill writer turns Northern Line commute into poetry

Poet Dominic Stevenson

Poet Dominic Stevenson - Credit: Archant

Dominic Stevenson tells Annie Muir why the London Underground inspired his first book of verse.

The vagaries of the Northern Line service have left Dominic Stevenson ample time to write his first volume of poetry.

During his daily commute from Highgate to Southwark, the Muswell Hill writer dreamed up a volume of verse inspired by the tube journey itself.

The Northern Line (Winter Goose Publishing) muses on the people he encounters on his journey south, and the strange dichotomy of distance and intimacy that develops between commuters.

He also hauls along “a rucksack of memories” of his own life including love, travel and friendships.

“I know it sounds silly, because it’s just a tube ‘line, but it’s very close to my heart,” says Stevenson.

“I’ve been making the same commute for five years, and I love the relationships you build up with people because of seeing them every day: the nods and smiles.”

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Stevenson calls public transport “a great equaliser”.

“However nice your suit is or whether you’re a man or a woman, English or French, you’re all on the same journey together. Even if the destinations are different you’re still going in the same direction.”

Appropriately the book is a perfect commuter read because “then you can get the in-jokes.”

“Although they are my experiences I see them as something that people can relate to. Most people have fallen in and out of love, been annoyed by someone encroaching on their space, or by music blaring out of headphones.”

Stevenson has even caught the judgmental gaze of a stranger while reading his own book on the tube the day it was printed, because he was too excited to wait until he got home. “To her I was just the man sitting there reading his own book.”

Like the tube line itself, Dominic describes himself as “Northern”.

He grew up in Grimsby and says although he always knew he wanted to leave and move to London he is proud of his background in the industrial north. The views on poverty, social injustice and the dispossessed he expresses in his poems originate from the politically-charged era he grew up in.

“My dad is a decorator, my granddad was a steel-worker, my other granddad was a carpenter, my great-granddad was a fisherman, and then here I am writing poetry.

“When I was growing up in the 80’s I remember poets like Tim Wells who were very politically fierce, that’s how it should be, poets have a responsibly to be politically engaged.”

Stevenson, who performs his poetry and hosts a monthly poetry event, Listen Softly says he gets out there and takes part in gigs because: “I want people to stop and listen and understand. I want the teachers to consider what party would be best for education, and the doctors and nurses to consider what would do best for healthcare. If everyone looked after their own area ethically, then we’d be fine, because there would always be a watchful eye. But that’s not always the case. I see the poet’s job as a member of society, as being that watchful eye.”

For more about Dominic see