Wednesday, 24 July 2013

London Lines – poems for every borough

As part of the Festival of Neighbourhood, the Southbank Centre asked some poets to write a poem about one of the London boroughs. Some poets went away and wrote the poems based on their stories and ideas, and these poems have been hidden in places around the Southbank.

Other poets asked for stories from people who live or have lived in the borough, who’ve worked there, visited for something special, or just passed through. They received stories of love, stories of sadness, stories of excitement and joy, and stories of quiet reflection.

A giant map of each borough was cut out, towers were made out of the stories, and many of the poets stayed up late on Saturday night, writing poems inspired by the tales they’d heard. Some poems were full of images direct from the people’s stories, and others were more subtle, conveying a feeling that all of the borough’s tales had evoked.

Some of the images and symbols that featured in many people’s stories were flowers, football and railways. From Gemma Seltzer's poem ‘Bromley Acquaints itself with the Butterfly Effect’: “On a Chislehurst street, children line roads, selling buttercups, wood anemones and wild orchids for fifty pence a bunch.” From Rebecca Perry's Croydon poem 'By Corridor, crocus and crumb': “On a good day we celebrate summer by gardening until nine thirty at night with you, perfecting roses and strawberries.” This dinosaur story is wonderful - it reminds me of the excitement of childhood trips to London:

Several poems made me smile. Either because they were funny or because they reflected back at me the London I know. There was something magical about reading the poems and the stories and feeling connected with so many people who I’ve probably never met and whose names I don’t know. Here are a couple of my stories that made up Dan Simpson’s Bexley tower. If you read them, I hope they made you smile:

Dan’s poem 'After the Last Day of School at Bexleyheath Clocktower' certainly made me smile. It reminded me of journeys home after school, when we should have got one bus, but we sometimes got two so we could go to the shopping centre in Bexleyheath afterwards. I haven’t been to Bexleyheath for years, but I can still picture the clocktower clear as day, and the mess we looked in the afternoon with our shirts hanging out.

The poem that took my breath away was this one.

For reasons I’d rather not go into in detail, it reminded me of love and happiness and heartbreak. Even the title itself. Forget-me-nots are flowers that I will associate with spring of this year, that flower stand outside Angel station I know very well, but my forties….well, they’re a few years away, but they are there, waiting for me. I hope that when I reach them, I’ll buy forget-me-nots and remember this year with fondness and sadness and a smile.

“But at the flower stand outside Angel tube, a blonde haired woman in her forties buys forget-me-nots.” From Simon Mole's Islington poem ‘Stay here a while longer’.

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