A few more reports from our Mixed Borders garden poets. The different residencies are starting to take shape now, as people learn more about their gardens and the visitors who are likely to attend during the Open Gardens Squares Weekend on 13-14 June. Some gardens will have visitors numbering in the thousands, some just a handful – so poets are shaping their plans accordingly.
Ann Perrin is at Postman’s Park ‘What a delight, a secret garden in the middle of the city, rain falling from the leaves of a plane tree, a thrush rummaging in the undergrowth, the Watts memorials. Magical.’ Read more on her blog.
Ellen Cranitch is working at Christchurch Greyfriars. She writes – ‘I’ve been struck throughout this project by the way a garden focuses issues of the poetic. My garden is Christchurch Greyfriars, down the road from Ann (above) and tended by the very same City of London gardener, Sebastian. A few weeks back, I cycled past the spot and it struck me with the force of recognition, something akin to Robert Frost’s dictum about the poem, ‘remembering something I didn’t know I knew’. I’d always been aware of this open, flower-filled space with its ruined Wren façade but I’d never quite pinned it down. Capturing its essence is what I’m now setting out to do.
Christchurch Greyfriars appeals to me formally and conceptually. In it I see an analogy between poem and garden, poem as garden or vice versa. It’s designed with tight parameters, bounded by two surviving Wren walls and with the planting laid out according to the floor-plan of the old church – wooden pillars for climbing roses where the original stone columns would have been. I love how these constraints interact with the wilder planting, especially now, end of May, when the green growth spurt is really on. These two elements – tight parameters, and less predictable content around which one can improvise – remind me of the basic constituents of the poem.’
Hilaire is at Morden Hall, and is making a floral mood board to inspire her poems. The Hall is not actually taking part in Open Garden Square Weekend, so Hilaire’s residency is set to be more open ended than the others.
Ian McEwen is at Arlington Square. Here’s one of his poems …
As you turn away you think ‘Was that a face?’ but was it
hurt or smiling? Look back – the cracked and warty
pavement of the bark – a bit of both then.
… and here’s how he arrived at that poem.
Julia Bird – I’m working in the garden of Nomura International plc, where three enterprising women who work on the switchboard have created a flourishing vegetable garden up on the roof. I’ve had one speedy visit there in advance of the OGSW, and immediately spotted the collection of champagne corks stuck to the ends of the pea canes to protect the eyes of distracted pea-pickers. I couldn’t have invented a better metaphor for a corporate environment transforming itself into something more communal and productive, and the corks will be popping into the poem I’m writing for Nomura’s OGSW brochure.
More reports to come in the two week run up to the Open Garden Squares Weekend.