Hmm, why is there a poem about litter in London in the middle of a unit about science and religion – you are possibly wondering. We think it provides a good illustration of the way that a text can use images to convey a message. Notice the ‘grey lid’ for the sky for example. And here’s a thought: thousands of years in the future, when pizza has been replaced by something we can’t even imagine (but hopefully still edible), we think this poem will still make sense … what do you think?
“London” by Jim McDonald (2007)
I walk every day under your heavy skies
the grey lid that covers your people.
I walk your filthy streets and step past
chicken bones dog excrement vomit urine stains
cigarette ends empty Stella cans pizza boxes
all discarded by your selfish people
who treat your crumbling streets with contempt.
your pall of brown smog covers me
yet your cars get bigger
minds of the drivers smaller
what have you left to offer?
You welcome the poor and treat them like animals
you revel in your insular cockney aggression.
your Empire is gone
your docks are empty
your trading floors filled with vacuous egotists
intent on grabbing what they can
your football grounds full of glory-seeking merchandise-clad sheep
desperate to see a team of foreigners provide some glory.
try a smile
instead of a snarl.
try to walk for once
instead of pumping out more CO2 from your 3 litre petrol engines.
stop gorging yourselves
stop furrowing your brows
and open your eyes.
Jim McDonald tackles some questions about his poem, ‘London’.
Why did you write it?
I walk to work, about two miles, along a very busy road. There are lots of pubs and bars, and nasty urban rubbish. I often think it could be so much more pleasant if the pavements were cleaned like the roads.
We live close together in a big city so some dirt and grime is unavoidable, but a little extra effort and it would be much more pleasant. In the UK we are so disconnected from where we really come from that lots of people don’t care about their surroundings. People need to feel a connection to their home town / city to take responsibility.
How long did ‘London’ take to write?
The poem came out of the end of my pen pretty quickly – It took me about half an hour. I don’t make serious efforts to publish poems – I just share them with friends and put them on the internet – so editing and swapping around words really wasn’t that important.
Why did you choose the word ‘lid’ for the sky?
The word ‘lid’ was in my head because I had a conversation with a colleague in Canada. Where she lives it gets cold in the winter, twenty below zero, but the days usually have clear blue skies. She said she feels claustrophobic in London because in the winter there are many, many days of grey skies, little rain, and it seems like a grey ‘lid’ has been dropped over the city. Her comment came to my mind when I was writing.
Is there a conscious pattern or rhythm in the words?
I tried to build in a rhythm of word-breaths. When I was a teenager I admired the poetry of Allen Ginsberg, and he experimented with how much you could say before running out of breath! I don’t pretend to have his genius for sensing how long a line should be, but you get a feel for what is right after a while. A computer is great for chopping lines in half.
Reflections on Genesis
In this video, a number of scholars and students present their ideas about how the Genesis accounts should be read.