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.
Who walks in rain beneath the four great houses?
Who walks at this time in the rain beneath the three towers?
Who walks at this early hour on this sabbath morning under the sign of rain below the four monuments to living?
Who walks the five ways?
Whose movements carve a seal in the rain beneath the five pillars?
Whose movements are a prayer this morning through these offerings to the ground?
Who moves here now?
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.
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.