Huw Poraj-Wilczynski explores London through the typewriters of the Thames’ poets.
In front of Shakespeare’s Globe, overlooking the River Thames, poets Luke Davis and Edmund Davie sit behind their portable typewriters waiting to write.
With paper loaded and cloth ribbons inked, their type hammers are ready to spring into life as soon as a passer-by requests a poem.
“It’s kind of like cold reading. You have to guess what the person wants from the poem,” says Davis. “It’s not about showing how clever you are.”
“We get a lot of requests for poems about anniversaries, graduation, the Thames and walking on the bridge. They can be tricky but we try our best.”
“I don’t know why people want poems,” says Davie, author of 100 Haikus about Penetration, a meditation on nature, the city and Alan Yentob’s pyjamas. “It could just be the typewriters or the novelty of poetry but it gives a new perspective of London and a different way to remember it.”
With this in mind, Unreported London commissioned Davie and Davis to each write a poem about the capital’s hidden rhythms.
By Edmund Davie
our proud city has a mirror image
no one talks about the usual channels
you’ll never read in the evening standard
tales of the backstreet
you won’t see what happened last night
on the evening news
no one tweets about angels being sacrificed
in city dungeons
no one could because no one knows
the half of it
¼ of the crimes
1% of the weirdness
.1% of the madness
.01% of what the people really think about all day.
by Luke Davis
It was Iain Sinclair’s fault. Before
He gave the game away, no one cared.
You could have the canals, the Lea,
The Bow Backs, all to yourself.
You and perhaps a fisherman
Smoking a bit of rocky, and sipping
from a warm can of Kestrel.
An industry sprouted in the wake
Of Lights Out and London Orbital
Now it has its own section in Water-
Stones. Lost London, Lost Rivers,
London Under London, 100 glossy
Paperback, spilling the same secrets
Here’s Postman’s Park, Here’s the John
Soanes museum by candlelight
Here’s the river Fleet and the Ravens-
Bourne. So what then, the truly
invisible? The actual mystery religion
its temples and altars?
If I knew I wouldn’t tell you, cos
Joggers would trample it
And people would walk dogs across it.
The boys in fashionwear in Wembley
Clutching carrier bags of khat
and we’d all have to give up the whole
game, and move to Lisbon
with everybody else.
Featured photo by Huw Poraj-Wilczynski