Poetry

Obstruction #4: People in London

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Walker Evans is a famous photographer who depicted and represented many aspects of American life and society. In the title of his project Many are Called, he quotes the Bible: many are called, but few are chosen. Here, he photographed casual people in the subway in NY as they didn’t know they were photographed. He chose some of the pictures to shape the whole collection. In his talk Stare, Jeff Rosenheim (a curator at MET) describes Evans’ work and how he  thought that photograph was part of urban poetry, how photographs represented the closeness between people. Even if two persons are not interacting with each other, are not posing and they even don’t know each other, a photograph may create a bound that lasts forever.

The job of the photographer is to go through all their shots and choose the ones that represent their vision at best. In this case, staring is the key of being capable to see what lies in the depth of human relationships. It’s how a photographer, just as a painter or a writer or poet, needs to educate their eyes. Listen, eavesdrop: the basic concept of this project is that you’re not alone. No one is alone. Seeing, says Rosenheim, is a creative act, the creative person needs to be an apologetic voyeur. Being surrounded by so many different people is a gift to anyone who lives in a city and takes pleasure in our fellow men.

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At some point during class, Ron told us that the writer’s block does not exist anymore. There’s just simply no such thing. Inspiration can really be found everywhere. I personally believe that a writer cannot just simply wait for the inspiration – the only thing that will make you productive is sitting and writing down, even if the result is shit. On the other hand, a writer or a creative in general needs to learn how to stare and to observe, to draw inspiration from the real world in their writing. For session 3, in fact, Ron wanted us to submit a picture about a detail that showed London’s contradiction. I submitted a picture of a cheap tomb found in Abney Cemetery in Stoke Newington. All the graves are very old and made out of stone, and people can’t bury corpses there anymore, but last year someone decided to dedicate a small, chalk grave to Eric the Punk, the finest dog-walker of Stokey. No one took it out, even if it wasn’t allowed. It made me laugh so much. Ron told us that the poet Natalie Diaz collected pictures of things that spoke to her. When she went through her collection, she realised they were always about dead animals. This does not mean that she’s nuts, but can tell her a lot about what inspires her.

Referring to this and to find inspiration in the city, Ron wanted us to do something very special to let Obstruction #4 kick off. He wanted us to capture London as we see it now. He asked for us to leave the room and go around the place, to find something that spoke to us, look at people, capture something in language. Overlooked details that said something to us about the city. I did so. I went out the building and saw many different people. I walked around Regent Street and the small park behind, I entered a Pret and ordered a sandwich. I observed people who surrounded me. What struck me was really that everyone was looking at their cellphone. It didn’t matter what they were doing, they were all looking down at the screen. I know it seems quite banal to say it, but it’s really a great part of our society now. So, it inspired Obstruction #4.

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Obstructions:

  1. Use the second person you.
  2. Use polycromatic colours and texture
  3. Must be 14 lines long.
  4. Use present tense.

 

This is my attempt.

 

Home

Neon shines brightly on your smile.

You’re looking down at the screen,

so no one knows why you’re so happy.

Maybe your five grams of coke have just arrived.

Veins pump under the veil of your forehead.

Your skin is thin, subtle, like a shell left on the shore

By the sea.

Only, in London, the sea is just the blue of your tie.

You smile.

You walk inside a Pret for a coffee, where

you can find a smile broadening quite suddenly

on another face, as another you watches another screen.

You have long hair instead, a pink cosy sweater,

and maybe he texted you. Or maybe not, and you’re happy about it.

No one knows why you smile.

And there’s another you, all in black,

holding the phone in one hand, and in the other a fag.

People don’t know how you feel and why

But you laugh out loud anyway.

Tattoos climb up your wide shoulders.

Your colleagues, your boss, all the passers-by

Just don’t know why you smile.

Nor do the offices, concrete walls and glassy doors,

none of them know there’s someone,

somewhere else, that you call home.

 

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