Flaneur: Day 4

Poetry

FLANEUR is a little project I’ve made for the BBC’s Contains Strong Language: a randomly-generated writing-exploration game that you can take part in. Each day of the festival I’ll be taking a randomised wander around Hull and posting a little poem about it. Head to Mixital to get your own instructions for a surprise, write a response, and share it with us. I’ll be reading and chatting about the responses on BBC social media channels each afternoon.

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1/10/17

Who walks in rain beneath the four great houses?
—CROW—PIGEON—GULL—STARLING—
Who walks at this time in the rain beneath the three towers?
—RUBY—EMERALD—SAPPHIRE—
Who walks at this early hour on this sabbath morning under the sign of rain below the four monuments to living?
—HIRISE—LORISE—SEMI—DETACHED—
Who walks the five ways?
—STEET—PATH—RIVER—RAILTRACK—ROAD—
Whose movements carve a seal in the rain beneath the five pillars?
—STREETLIGHT—TRAFFICLIGHT—TREE—AERIAL—SPIRE—
Whose movements are a prayer this morning through these offerings to the ground?

—TROLLEY—BOTTLE—PACKET—LEAF—BUTT—CAN—
Who moves here now?

hull4.JPG

My Instructions

1. Disobey the next instruction.
2. Consider what the people around you might be thinking. Decide if you want to keep going.
3. Find the nearest wall and touch it for four minutes.
4. Walk towards the moon for seven metres.
5. Go intensely southeast for the count of thirteen.
6. Take the fourth left.
7. Find the nearest traffic light and write down a description.
8. Find the nearest bird, then follow it for nineteen seconds or until you lose it, whichever comes sooner.
9. Meander in the direction of home for a while.
10. Wheel northeast for one hour.
11. Go northeast for a while.
12. Stop, find a comfortable spot, and write a long poem about your thoughts.
13. Head back.

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Wander and Poem Notes

My early disobedience got me very turned around, and so the instructions in the end led me on a grand loop that cut transects through different parts of outer Hull. I strode through tower blocks, more affluent semi-suburbs, housing estates, parks and the other ordinary design of a city. It was raining, quite hard, and something about the rain and the early hour and the quiet Sunday morning made me feel, there’s no other word for it, ecstatic. The ecstatic poetic mode comes quite easily to me, and it’s what I often fall into when writing quickly — I don’t know if it’s growing up going to a lot of churches or overdosing on Shelley and Blake too young.  For this poem I wanted to get to the majesty and magic of an ordinary city on a wet day, the possibility of holiness everywhere, perhaps even more present here, and to do that I had to cut the language right back to simplicity. The high tone is in the syntax, but I need the words to be as transparent as possible. This is the poem I’m most happy with from the week. Thanks, Hull.

Flaneur: Day 3

Poetry, Uncategorized

FLANEUR is a little project I’ve made for the BBC’s Contains Strong Language: a randomly-generated writing-exploration game that you can take part in. Each day of the festival I’ll be taking a randomised wander around Hull and posting a little poem about it. Head to Mixital to get your own instructions for a surprise, write a response, and share it with us. I’ll be reading and chatting about the responses on BBC social media channels each afternoon.

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A piece of blue industrial plant — a cherry picker — stands outside a modern redbrick building. In its plate glass window, a brownstone church is reflected.

30/9/17

Shuttered redbrick sports a lush          burst of weeds like spring pubes,
thick and bolshie — daddy, shove          your hand in says the winking
closed circuit camera, the razorwire          black as best silk sheets.

          …harling split to old stone     poly rags    yellow squirts
          wonky corrugated topper    nettle bush     hunks of river mud…

“Post,” they call this, post         -industrial, -ironic worn iron signs, as though
it were not live with pigeons           purring their war. The mill dock shrugs,
takes wild new bubbling paint,          gnashes its gums and grinds joy.

hull bridge

The site described in the poem: a semi-derelict mill and grain store, and an old cantilever bridge across the Humber.

My Instructions

1. Meander away from the sun for a while.
2. Roll backwards for thirteen seconds.
3. Go northwest for five minutes.
4. Look.
5. Take the third right.
6. Watch.
7. Wait.
8. Roll towards the largest building nearby for a little while.
9. Look.
10. Stop, find a comfortable spot, and write a poem about where you’ve been.
11. Head back.

hull3

A map showing a short and wonky walk through central Hull.

Wander Notes

A short one today, as I was showing the BBC’s Vanessa Scott around FLANEUR — but even the short instructions gave us a few pleasant surprises. Walking with someone else slowed me down and made me look more closely for interesting things. We got lost in the back alleys of the shopping centres, possibly (accidentally!) setting off a burglar alarm (I swear we just walked into a car park), ambled into and out of a gorgeous old theatre mews, found ourselves in a redbrick industrial estate, and ended up next to a gigantic grain store and old mill building, Maizecor. I’m finding that things always get most interesting once we’ve crossed the A-roads that ring Hull city centre, but even the centre has a strange and quite lovely jumble of architecture: Victorian and Edwardian grandeur, redbrick industry, 60s brutalism, 90s shopping streets and contemporary culture-led plate glass architecture all compete for space.

Poem Notes

I’m wary of artists’ fetishisation of post-industrial architecture and dereliction — there’s something patronising about it, something that fails to understand what the loss of city centre industry means. These buildings can be scary and sad, but I love them. And I want them to bite back. I wanted to ask this building how it was feeling in the world, and the answer seemed to be: rude and dangerous and old and sexy. I’m happiest with the first three lines, and maybe the poem should be cut to just that — it gets looser as the poem goes on, and I don’t need to explain as much as I do. But I loved meeting this building so much that I had to keep writing down the words.

Flaneur: Day 2

Poetry, Uncategorized

FLANEUR is a little project I’ve made for the BBC’s Contains Strong Language: a randomly-generated writing-exploration game that you can take part in. Each day of the festival I’ll be taking a randomised wander around Hull and posting a little poem about it. Head to Mixital to get your own instructions for a surprise, write a response, and share it with us. I’ll be reading and chatting about the responses on BBC social media channels each afternoon.

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29/9/17

the neon hoodie hulks between

     knowledge and innovation total panel
     solutions security and monitoring
     services hygeinic door systems
     autoelectric systems proplant
     services palletised distribution
     gates and fencing rigid kitchen
     carcases augmented online salvage
     auction technology SPIDERS office
     clearance EXCELLENCE roller shutters
     vehicle wrap luxury mirrors all
     at trade prices accident repair
     repair repair open to the public

               and the wolf mauls the dirt

hull2

My Instructions

1. Run.
2. Roll lightly away from the moon for seven seconds.
3. Walk.
4. Travel east for a little while.
5. Take the fifth left.
6. Proceed intensely towards the largest building nearby for a while.
7. Find the nearest lamppost and wait there watching the world pass for one hour.
8. Wheel slowly for a while.
9. Find the nearest wall and write down a description.
10. Disobey this instruction.
11. Find the nearest building and write down a description.
12. Watch.
13. Jaunt away from the sea for a while.
14. Explore the first alley you meet. When you leave, turn left.
15. Find the nearest wall and wait there watching the world pass for ten seconds.
16. Meander in the direction of home for a little while.
17. Stop, find a comfortable spot, and write a tiny poem about what you’ve seen.
18. Head home.

Wander Notes

When I saw “Run” I knew I had to pelt it across the bridge. I wanted to get into the industrial estates, those strange alternate realities where huge numbers of people work but the urban design is weirdly inhuman: unwalkable, shot through with carparks and private roads. This one is extra strange, because the Trans Pennine Trail cuts through it, making me dream of mountains. I had to take an uninstructed 15 minute break in a bus shelter when the ran got too heavy, and the noise of the road was extraordinary. The instructions sent me up to a big factory to lounge against a lamppost, where of course a security guard found me and asked what I was doing. “Just out for a wander,” I said with a daft grin, feeling very silly (I was very silly). He made me stand on the opposite street corner, which was not a private road. I think he was worried I was trying to steal the formula for Clearasil with my damp notebook and pen. So I didn’t make it the full hour under the lamppost before wandering on.

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Poem Notes

Along with the strange architecture, I like the language of the business park, like I like all peculiar jargons and minority argots. All the words in the middle bit here are gathered from buildings on this derive (I’d like to go back and gather more; I don’t think I’ve quite caught the mix of beauty and banality, strangeness and incomprehensibility). I wanted to frame that language with something both urban and magical, to give it a weirdness in its context. The neon hoodie is mine; the wolf was originally a BMX bike, but “BMX bike” has terrible scansion and felt too on the nose, so I tried transforming it. I’m now worried the frame is too overstated, but set against the banal central section maybe I get away with it.