Poetry on demand

Easier said than done, this commissioned writing lark. I’m used to letting language lead the way in a spontaneous, organic fashion; the ‘poetry on demand’ approach is trickier and demands a lot of patience, although it is, to a degree, time-limited. I’m not sure exactly what I’m going to come up with in my residency at The Bishopsgate Institute, but I hope it covers quite a few bases. In fact, I’d echo what Roddy Lumsden has to say. He’s just finished writing poetry with/for Kate Moss in a project called Flowers4Kate. This is from an early entry in his residency diary.

I’ve been on the set for a couple of hours now, watching as things are being prepared. I’m not sure how many poems I’m going to produce, but I want to create a variety of pieces, some unusual, others more conventional. Since flowers are central to the shoot, I’ve brought some books with me which contain information on the lore and language of flowers. I want to start by creating a sing-song list poem which incorporates plant names and their derivations, plant lore and uses, mixed in with more abstract phrases which occur to me as I make my notes. I’m taking care not to make it too ‘flowery’.

The good news is that I’ve now got three finished poems. I say finished – they may well change over the course of this month. ‘Mr Bradlaw’s Fishing Tackle’ is set in the Institute’s library and is a reworking of ‘Megalithic Software’ (below); ‘The Blackpool Mile’ is based on memories of living and working in the East End (thanks Laurie); ‘Queer things in Egypt’ is a looser, less narrative/observational piece which focuses on ideas of inwardness and outwardness, I guess – the title refers to a lecture given at the Institute in 1940 by one Rev. GW Kerr.

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