27 February 2014

Poetry Thursday - Immigrant by Fleur Adcock

... awkward beaks ... (via)

November '63: eight months in London.
I pause on the low bridge to watch the pelicans:
they float swanlike, arching their white necks
over only slightly ruffled bundles of wings,
burying awkward beaks in the lake's water.

I clench cold fists in my Marks and Spencer's jacket
and secretly test my accent once again:
St James's Park; St James's Park; St James's Park.

-Fleur Adcock

(from London Poems on the Underground, and from Poems 1960-2000 (Bloodaxe Books, 2000); hear it read at poetryarchive.org)

Born in 1934, Fleur Adcock has lived in London for much of her life - 1939-47, and since 1963, working as an assistant librarian at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office till 1979, and as a freelance writer since then. Her poetry is about mundane events but often with a dark twist - a poetry of wry observation "conjuring the kind of intimacy that comes from shared assumptions and experiences" said the Guardian in a review of her recent book, Glass Wings.

This poem particularly appeals to me because it was near a bridge, in a park (but not St James's), that I met Fleur Adcock - in rather strange circumstances. The time was around the turn of the century, or maybe even a few years earlier than that, and Tony had found an event he thought might appeal to me - a "poetry walk" in Hyde Park/Kensington Gardens. To please him, and because it wasn't raining, I turned up ... to find not a walk but a poetry-writing session, with a theme of ballads. There were only a handful of us, and the others had been coming for some weeks, meeting in the building (an 18th century warehouse) that never seemed to be in use but is now transformed into the extension of the Serpentine Gallery. There were several more sessions, each with a poetic exercise, and I returned for all of them. You wrote something, in class or for the next one ... you read it aloud ... everyone was encouraged and encouraging, under Fleur's benign guidance.
Serpentine Sackler Gallery, over the bridge  (via)

1 comment:

reensstitcher said...

I am always interested in Fleur Adcock's work because her father taught me psychology and her stepmother was my tutor in my honours year. I never met Fleur because she had left NZ but as an immigrant myself I can identify easily with this poem.