Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Festival 51

To go with my photobook on the Festival of Britain celebrations of last summer on the South Bank, I have written this poem
Festival 51

I’m lost among these Londoners
and semi-Londoners I live among,
yet London stirs me whenever London stirs.

The silent losers and the real winners,
Enigma-breakers in the crowd, unsung,
were lost among these Londoners

who drank in tents to scientific wonders,
who danced on terraces where Skylon hung;
 London stirred them whenever London stirred,

and would include each bunch of foreigners
who came to stay. No matter how much stung
or lost among these Londoners,

new cohorts came to interleaving boroughs –
a hovel built on clay, mist-bank where sunrays clung,
when London first stirred, whenever London stirred.

Smoked rubble, lives peeled off in pastel layers –
the bomb-sites pollinated, bells were rung,
and each voice lost in other Londoners’ –
a climb of sound, a point where nothing stirs.


Lorenzo da Ponte said...

As an ill-dressed hitch-hiker from the West Riding, staying in a youth hostel in Hoxton, I think I probably qualified as part of a "bunch of foreigners" lollygagging beneath the Skylon and looking on approvingly at the Emmett cartoons. There was also the Shot Tower which everyone seems to forget.

But having renounced my WR origins I would far rather have been an Enigma-breaker, able to experience the warm innocence of the Festival and comfort myself secretly (oh so secretly) with the fact that my labours at Bletchley had helped make the event possible.

You have done well to surround the South Bank with the still untouched evidence of the Blitz ("lives peeled off in pastel layers"). For as I said, writing about pop music, context is all and perhaps the most significant thing about the Festival is what it emerged from. And perhaps too in the years that followed and I graduated from the YHA to a B&B in Gloucester Place I might have lost my foreigner status and become a semi-Londoner, still stirred (as now in 2012) by London's stirrings.

Glad too about "interleaving boroughs" since to my mind London is the only place where this strangely comfortable noun works. le chapeau.

Plutarch said...

London more than 60 years ago is not so different . You capture something enduring, Lives are still peeled off in pastel layers.

Lucas said...

Many thanks, LdP. It is good to have your take on actually going to the Exhibition and your corroboration on how people change from "foreigners" into semi-Londoners. The Shot Tower sounds interesting. I expect I saw it in the model yet can't recall what it was...
Many thanks, Plutarch.