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.

2017-09-30 10.33.11

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.

2017-09-29 10.53.46

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.

2017-09-29 10.59.50.jpg

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.

Flaneur: Day 1

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.

2017-09-28 17.48.15-2

A big city street with two single-decker buses stopping to drop off and pick up. The sun’s setting. Half-timbered house in the rear, and a few big green trees to the right.

28/9/17

The growl and wheeze of city buses, tired
little dragons, settling to eat a bit
of flesh, dump a bit of flesh, grump their doors
and curse themselves on. Blinking at bikes,
scowling at silent black chelsea tractors — this city
was theirs once, giving its gold, and now a thousand
motors a minute bother their bones, slowed
to rumbling lurch…
___________________________but hey, here’s a straight
and a clear yellow lane: hear them fly.

2017-09-28 18.00.48.jpg

My feet up on the wall outside Hull’s Guildhall, where I finished the wander: green socks and purple trainers.

Wander Notes

My instructions:
1. Proceed gently for eighteen seconds.
2. Watch.
3. Meander gently for a while.
4. Roll away from the sea for a while.
5. Take the fourth right.
6. Find the nearest seat and take a rubbing of it.
7. Roll towards the moon for a while.
8. Wheel east for two miles.
9. Go sideways for three seconds.
10. Walk.
11. Take the fifth right.
12. Stop, find a comfortable spot, and write a poem about what you’ve heard.
13. Head back.

A little city centre walk, starting out at BBC Humberside, taking an eccentric loop through shopping and residential streets, before darting off to the river and finishing off with a dander through the old town. Not being a wheelchair user, I interpreted “roll” with a relaxed, dawdling gait; not being a river, I started out with a loopy wander round the fountain for “meander”. There was an awkward moment as I fumbled on my phone trying to figure out roughly what direction the moon was in, and I had my first cheat, being too hungry to walk for 2 miles and cutting it off early. Cheating is definitely encouragesd. A pleasant way to get familiar with the centre of Hull, its mix of big uncrossable roads, pedestrianised shopping, post-industrial and post-commercial spaces and grand old buildings. I’ll start nearer the edge tomorrow and see if I end up somewhere stranger.

hull1

A map of the walk, starting out in Queen’s Gardens, looping through the shopping centre, then up to the river and down though the old town. I wasn’t drunk, I just don’t have a good mouse for drawing smooth lines.

Poem Notes
It’s nerve-wracking, sharing quickly-written poems! I wonder if visual artists who share their sketches feel the same way. Anyway, I’m pleased here with capturing the sound of buses, which I love and have always noticed and couldn’t place until I thought of dragons. When writing quickly, you can generally only get to one or two good things: here, a central image to work through and a set of sounds to play with. I think I’ve overdone it on the sound effects, which need to be reigned in (or, more fun and silly, pushed further), and I don’t think I’ve quite caught the ending yet — too glib, too cheesy! But I’m glad to have met some dragons.