Poem at the year’s end

December 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

On a Train Returning from the Imperial War Museum in Salford, Winter 2013

I’m travelling backwards,
the hills of the Peak passing down
into the afternoon.

The train is half empty.
A woman stops a phone-call
in mid-sentence, signal broken.

After a moment’s silence
she resumes communication
through her laptop,

the tapping like rain starting
on a roof. In my mind, men
up to their knees in mud

are holding a stretcher.
One is looking to camera.
What the hell can they do?

They’re stuck; hopeless.
The man they carry is almost
dropped into the sludge.

The woman’s phone goes:
she stops tapping, starts talking.
At Grindleford we rock and settle,

plunge into the tunnel.
I watch the framed day diminish,
wait for the voice to end.

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Itinerary

December 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

From the corner you could go anywhere, Leveson Street,
Warren Street, under the arches of Norfolk Bridge, over the river…

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This is a place in Attercliffe, Sheffield – an intersection, where the narrator of one of my poems in The Footing, and the historical subjects he is tracking, raise their eyes to the possibilities of the urban horizon. It’s a point on a map; it is also a moment: a place reached, a pause in which the narrator’s present (which was mine, sometime in 2010) collides with the present of a gang of men, in the spring of 1925, walking away from a crime – a fatal attack on an Attercliffe man, for which two of them, a few weeks later, were to hang.

The title of my sequence is ‘Flights and Traverses’, chosen because I wanted to indicate how the poems describe movement away from a point (the ‘flight’) and also the phenomenon of that movement (the ‘traverse’ or crossing). But the sequence also has a subheading: 5 Itineraries; and it had an earlier, working title: ‘A Cartography’. Both suggest the original motive: I wanted to follow footsteps – but I was also interested in the imaginative possibilities of mapping and the itinerary.

‘Itinerary’ has its roots in the Latin for ‘travelling’ and is usually understood to mean either a plan or a record of a journey: it can therefore refer to an experience anticipated or recollected. There is also something of the professional: it traditionally refers to a day’s travel especially for the purpose of judging, or preaching, or lecturing. In many senses, it is a ‘setting out’.

(This is an extract of ‘Cartography, Flights and Traverses’, an essay about my poem sequence ‘Flights and Traverses’, which was presented at the launch of the Longbarrow Press anthology The Footing in Sheffield in November.  The whole piece is on the Longbarrow site here.)

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