Saturday, 28 April 2018

There was and there was not

 so, before I embark
and prior to my descent
in the wide-berth access lift
I stand between worlds   should I flick
on the lights and stand to let
the rats take cover
among parasols and ear trumpets,
amid infantrymen frozen in desert,
the photographs and paintings
in this holding room for unclaimed goods 

or should I stumble into darkness:
the junkyard of bicycles destined
for prison yards, pallets
of wellingtons reclaimed from festivals
paired and stationed here behind
the corrugated iron door of the storeroom
one side in darkness, the other strip lit

come up to a slice of daylight
furrows falling across platforms?

Thursday, 5 April 2018

Lost and Found

This project is funded by the Royal Society of Literature's Literature Matters awards.

The plan is to treat Bristol Temple Meads Lost Property Office as if it were an access point to the Underworld. That tallying that goes on so efficiently is not so different from a nurse’s itemizing the artefacts about a deceased person. Over eight months, I plan to record the practice of staff as they field items from all over the UK and to talk with members of the public about their individual stories of losing and reclaiming their possessions. Together, these accounts will form the basis of a pamphlet of poems. In a sense, this project is an extension of my pamphlet Night Porter, which documented life in a Yorkshire hotel.

Where the project differs from Night Porter, is that I will also be exploring katabasis – visits to the Underworld – in literature, since there are parallels between the subterranean Lost Property Office, located at the feet of numerous flights of stairs, and an entrance into the afterlife. The poet Tim Liardet memorably described swimming pools as places which ‘one has to divest oneself of self to enter.’ The lost property office is a place where these items – so telling of the self – are detachedly tallied and calculated before being entered on a database.

The two guiding images of this project are Stanley Spenser's The Resurrection, Cookham in which villagers brush the dirt from their finery as they rise from their graves

and the grandiose but clean machinery of Powell and Pressburgers' A Matter of Life and Death.

One cannot but call to mind Ian Curtis, and those intrepid and unorthodox travelers Flat Stanley and Waldo Jeffries when considering these staircases.

Further research includes a trip to Greasby’s Auctioneers and Valuers which runs an auction of unclaimed baggage every second Tuesday in Tooting, and to the Bureau des objets trouvĂ©s in Paris (for which I can thank a residential grant from the Society of Authors). In addition, I will be studying with the Arvon Foundation, Exeter University and the poet and musician Kirsten Norrie.

So, I start tomorrow, and this blog will be a document of my every visit as well as a working document for draft poems to be played around with and knocked into shape.

If you have any contributions or thoughts to offer, please leave them here as a comment, or alternatively contact me directly at