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Originally published at Al Robertson. You can comment here or there.

So here’s Iain Sinclair, talking about London while wandering in Haggerston Park and Bethnal Green:

He’s sadder here than I’ve ever seen him. He talks in the film about how London has changed into something he can no longer engage with – that writers in general can engage with – in any particularly constructive way. But I think there’s also something very personal behind his grief.

Tom Raworth, a very major, often astonishing poet, died back in February. There’s more on him here. Sinclair knew him well and was – is – greatly influenced by him. He mentions his death at the end of this LRB piece, a companion to the film. I think the film is in part an elegy to him, and to a particular milieu which once surrounded Sinclair but is now slowly and inevitably slipping away.

And of course Sinclair’s more overt concerns about London are both very genuine and very incisive. Most of the film was shot within a few minutes walk of my own final London flat. I once knew that area well, but when I visit it now I feel a very absolute sense of slippage. London has moved away from me, too. There’s a sense of radical change afoot that is hard to keep up with, and both painful and (for someone less closely involved with the city) fascinating to watch.

And I write this on the day that Theresa May’s Article 50-triggering letter reaches Brussels and Brexit proper begins. I’m European as much as I am British – I spent my early years in France. I speak French, some German and Latin, which lets me read Italian and Spanish. I’ve found deep riches in all those cultures. And I’m British as much as I am English. My family on both sides is ultimately Scottish and I spent four immensely formative student years up there.

Brexit is at best profoundly suspicious of and at worst deeply corrosive to those international parts of me, and more broadly to those of England and Britain; to that positive, open European identity that the best parts of the 20th Century fought so hard for. So I felt for Iain Sinclair as he wandered through streets that he’d once felt lost in, and that he’d worked so hard to understand, and that were now puzzling him all over again. His film helped crystallise the sense of loss I’m feeling, without once directly referring to its cause. If you have fifteen minutes today, I’d recommend watching it.

A Vanishing

Oct. 8th, 2010 11:42 am
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Originally published at allumination. Please leave any comments there.

Waking in the morning
to the tumbling of a stream
outside my shining window
and the dreams I had recede
like strangers, met on the road.
I think of stories of hitchers
buckling their seatbelts, pale in the night
picked up perhaps at a crossroads
perhaps at a cemetery gate
who talk of nothing much, but when
the driver pulls up at the place
that they have named as their home
and turns – they are gone – and too late
you know the unknown
has touched you, there on the way
travelling through dark to the dawn.


I’ve posted this new poem as yesterday was National Poetry Day. It was inspired by urban myths of phantom hitchhikers, which have always fascinated me. Wikipedia has a very comprehensive entry on the phenomenon – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vanishing_hitchhiker.

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