Ruth Padel has spoken of Orpheus’ power to forge connections: “Orpheus draws everyone towards him and brings his audience together”. In today’s poem, the Orpheus myth resounds in a perhaps unexpected location, the underworld of an Ikea car park.
At Poetry in Aldeburgh Ruth Padel will read alongside Rachel McCarthy as part of Passion and Precision on Sunday 6th November, 2.30pm – 3.30pm in the Jubilee Hall.
Orpheus’ Imagination as a Subterranean Car Park
I wouldn’t know myself in your mind now. I see me
flim and flutter there: Eurydice,
whose death was ‘all her fault’,
in something like Ikea car park’s hypogeum
studded with concrete pillars,
oiled puddles (shivering to medal-ribbon
when four-wheel drives shake ramps to upper floors)
and thrumming harps abandoned in this vault:
broken trolleys, silver lamé in dark.
from The Soho Leopard (Chatto & Windus, 2004)
Writing Prompt: A Swim in the Armchair
Ikea, the Swedish furniture retailer, is well-known for its self-assembly furniture, and its gargantuan and labyrinthine stores that can take hours to navigate. It is also renowned for its creatively named products. Behind these names though is a curious kind of naming system. For instance, the beds, wardrobes and hall furniture are all Norwegian place names. Items of garden furniture are all Swedish islands. Curtain accessories are all mathematical and geometric terms. Lighting products are drawn from a broad pool of terms from music, chemistry, meteorology, measures, weights, seasons, months, days, boats, and nautical terms. This system leads to some surprising and potentially confusing acts of naming. A curtain rail called Kvartal or ‘quarterly’. A scented candle called Flärdfull, meaning ‘vain’. A bookcase called Bonde or ‘peasant farmer’. A chair pad called Admete is named after a figure in Greek myth, the daughter of Eurystheus who set one of Heracles’ Twelve Labours.
This creative system was supposedly concocted due to Ikea founder Ingvar Kamprad’s dyslexia and him seeking names that are easier to remember. Some of the stranger names are reminiscent of the word-warping that occurs in Greek film director Giorgios Lanthimos’s bizarre and disturbing Dogtooth (2009), in which a father and mother raise their three children on an isolated estate to have no knowledge of the outside world, and invent new meanings for words so that the children believe the “sea” means an armchair, a “motorway” is a strong wind, and a “zombie” is a yellow flower. In such a vein, today’s task is to create a poem where a thing or things are for some reason (which you may or may not explain) named in unexpected ways, allowing language to become disorientating and unfamiliar.
Following the above, you may want to refer to the ‘Ikea dictionary’ here, a round-up of some of the word-meanings (although not matched to products): http://lar5.com/ikea