Carol Ann Duffy’s WRITE Where We Are Now project is featuring new poems and new perspectives about the pandemic as we live through this challenging time. It is fantastic to have this record unfold day by day and I am very happy to have a poem posted that I wrote in early April when there was still blossom on the cherry tree. How things move apace as they say, and how they stay the same. The weirdness of Lockdown.
The glare from my computer screen
is a framing square of light,
while a streetlight highlights
orange smears on the window.
Below the apex of the eaves opposite,
the date, nineteen hundred and seven,
is at the same height as the cherry blossom.
How many times has it bloomed
and fallen since?
The Edward Hopper painting,
‘Sun in an Empty Room, 1963’,
is on my screen, painted fifty-six years
after my neighbour’s house was built.
Sunlight forms its own door
on the wall and a pale grid on the floor,
while outside the picture window,
leaves lean like a green wall.
It is spring two thousand and twenty
and various things are blooming.
Finchley, street view: 6 April 2020
Last Thursday we were supposed to be performing live at All Saints’ Church, Edmonton. I had been collaborating with poet Cheryl Moskowitz and electronic composer Alastair Gavin and cellist Kate Shortt and we were looking forward to the wonderful atmosphere of the beautiful church where I have been lucky enough to have been in the audience for previous AllSaintsSessions. However, times as we all know, have changed dramatically, but we decided to go ahead with a Facebook Live event. The brilliance of Alastair is to be acknowledged for bringing everything together in ways we could not have predicted, and some surprising additional layers. We were able to incorporate visuals thanks to Brooklyn film maker George Gavin on video design – at a very safe, but creative, social distance.
The process was a joy in very unsettling times – recording separately and leaving microphones behind plant pots to be safely received with their poetry and musical contributions spliced and diced and reconstituted into a collaboration that you can listen to on the All Saints site, www.allsaintssessions.uk or on their Facebook page.
We are all being pushed in new and challenging directions and sometimes it works. Hope you agree.
Check out the Carcanet YouTube Channel. Carcanet and PN Review poets including Joe Carrick-Varty and Stav Poleg are filmed reading their poems adding an extra layer to the words on the page. I was filmed in the summer reading my poem ‘ø’, a tribute to my beautiful Danish mother who passed away ten years ago this summer. Miss her voice and sad I didn’t learn Danish. She wanted to ‘not make her husband feel left out.’ If you can speak another language and you have a child, speak to them in that language and let the tongue flourish. Your language is your politics and your identity. Guard it.
d/Deaf Republic: Poets
I say I’m testing how to differentiate
A unilateral ear unable to locate
Between fitting in/not fitting in.
Oi! Are you deaf or something?
Three poets, brought together not just
for their poetry but for shared themes of
deafness, drew the crowds at a recent
event at London’s Southbank.
Ilya Kaminsky, whose “parable in poems”,
Deaf Republic, was recently serialised on
Radio 4’s Book of the Week, read, sang,
and chanted from the narrative he
created of an anonymous village under
attack whose residents adopt deafness
as a defence against an army.
Raymond Antrobus, whose prizewinning collection, The Perseverance,
I reviewed last issue, performed (and
even rapped) his poems to brilliant
effect, even when he stood behind the
sign language interpeter, and let her do
the ‘talking’. Lisa Kelly (extract opposite
from her collection, A Map Towards
Fluency) startled with her beautiful
rhythmic readings on taking sign
language classes, her loss of hearing in
one ear and more. This was a model of
how such an occasion should be run,
with the poetry projected onscreen and
live speech-to-text transcription.