02 April 2015

Poetry Thursday - Chunnel/Le Tunnel sous la Manche by Patience Agbabi

1994 (via)
Chunnel/Le Tunnel sous la Manche
by Patience Agbabi

Me, I was hard, rock hard: chalk marl, rock, la craie bleue,
la craie de la craie bleue: sea bed, her bed, la Manche.
Men fell in love with blue, fell fathoms deep in her
and saw my grey-blue face, my opening, my launch.
Moi, j'etais difficile, unyielding, hard to get.
The men, they craved me more, too dangerous, too dear;
from Shakespeare Cliff they craved deep down and, from Sangatte,
Europa's sisters carved down deep. They first kissed here:

here, in this place where first I felt that stab of air,
l'air frais, bore through me whole and I became its form;
a structure sous la Manche, a sculpture sous la mer.
From cliff to breath, from la to le, I was reborn.
And now I am complete, put history on ice,
salute me in two tongues; come, kiss me, kiss me twice.

The poem marks 1994 in Jubilee Lines - 60 poets for 60 years. Hear it read here (and elsewhere).

Patience Agbabi grew up in north Wales and studied English language and literature at Oxford. She began performing on the London club circuit in 1995, and became a member of Atomic Lip, which has been described as "poetry's first pop group".  "Give me a stage and I'll cut form on it / give me a page and I'll perform on it," she writes, in her poem The Word.

She was 2010's poet laureate of Canterbury, and her  recent big project is a retelling of the Canterbury Tales -  Telling Tales, published in 2014 - a 21st-century take on the characters, as well as the book's poetry and performance elements. Here she performs the Prologue -  but don't expect April's "shoures soote" and all that -
The book is shortlisted for the Ted Hughes Award for New Work in Poetry - the winner is announced today, fingers crossed for her!

As for the Tunnel - what a difference that's made for travel to the continent. London to Paris in just over two hours! As we discovered on one of our Eurostar (mis)adventures, when the tunnel is closed it can take more than six hours to go by ferry.

A previous attempt to build a channel tunnel was made in the 1880s, but was abandoned because the government concerns that it would render Britain more vulnerable in the face of an invading army from Europe, eg from recently unified Germany.
Remains of the 1880 attempt
But what did they do with the earth removed from the 20th century tunnel? They put the English part here -
Samphire Hoe (via)

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