I started writing this collection in 2017 as I transitioned from living and working in Paris, where I had been for six years, back to London. There are poems from both cities. I found myself bidding a fond farewell to France, as well as looking at home with fresh eyes. The collection has had to wait a while due to the pandemic, but that is no bad thing.
Opening with ‘Flat holm/Steep holm,’ a poem about cultural identity, where home is is to the fore when you have lived in different places. I’m Welsh, but don’t live in Wales, and British too when living outside the UK. It’s confusing. But what are solid and tangible are the things around us. Hence London in all its colours, seasons and histories. There are poems from Mayfair to Hammersmith Bridge, and an eponymous long poem, well, long for me is if it goes over more than one page, which mines my immediate neighbourhood in Shepherds Bush. A separate section sings of some of the notable trees of London and other trees important to me.
Home is also the place of my concerns about freedom, the lives of women and my daughters. My thoughts range more widely on these topics too. Trump was U.S. President during my writing of the collection, busy attacking women and the environment. There are poems reflecting these important issues, such as ‘Her name is Margaret Paxton’, ‘Badlands become Badasslands’, ‘Edward’s memory is a hard disk’, and ‘Just not beautiful enough’.
Climate change is ever in my concerns. New poems here concern themselves with birds and insects (‘One thing I meant to do with the girls’ and ‘The curators’ lunchtime game’), sea level rise (‘Gulls perhaps’ and ‘Spring 2042’), and the way we think and write about the natural world (‘Old nature writing’).
And there is always art. I have been looking at painting, prints and sculptures and thinking seriously about art for over forty years. I make art myself as a printmaker. Not surprisingly it makes its presence felt in my work such as poems amongst other things after Georgia O’Keefe (‘Morphology of the black/white places’), Damien Hirst (‘Your table will be about ten minutes’) and Richard Long (‘Explain yourself in 120 miles’). British colonial history pops up in art in ‘Heritage 2020’ and BLM in ‘Season of goodwill,’ and there’s one sly swipe at Brexit.
Place and considerations of otherness are reflected in poems from my childhood in Australia like ‘The Wendy House and ‘Collected in 1968.’ A wonderful visit to Japan in 2018 occasioned a number of poems, and I often turn to the two years I spent in the US, some twenty years ago now, for inspiration from the landscape of its South West, as well as a more recent trip to New Orleans in 2019. As with the art inspired poems, these are, of course, about other things – climate change (‘Learning bottlenose’), homelessness (‘Brown anole lizard on a fence post, watching’), environmental destruction (‘Earth surface sediment transport’), and failed relationships (‘Voodoo to cast away pain and devastation’).
This all sounds rather serious, and it is, but I hope my tone, a kind of sarcastic wit, does not make it overly so. My work is meant to be an entertainment. Having said that, just because it sounds jokey, does not mean it is.
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