Verve ‘City Poem’ Competition: A Cityscape Springboard

By 29th October 2017Uncategorised
CITY SCAPE COMPLETE

The 2018 Verve Poetry Festival Competition closes for submissions in just less than a month, on 25th November 2017. So if you haven’t already put pencil to paper / pen to board / finger to keyboard yet, we thought we could entice you with a springboard of suggestions to get the words going.

We at Verve are widening our scope. Moving forward on last year’s ‘Birmingham’ theme – this year we don’t just want poems about our city, but about all of them. We want to hear what ‘city’ means to you, whether that be a high-brow homage to Walter Benjamin’s flaneurial antics, a space-age vision of a new capital on Mars or a nostalgic memoir of an ancestral city home. This competition is open to anyone in the world (hello out there) and has infinite scope — so dust off them caps for thinking.

The following is a sporadic series of odds and sods, incoherent bits and pieces which relate, reflect and refract a multitude of cityscapes. They are as disjointed and contradictory as cities should be. Some may resonate, others may not. Either way hopefully something will get you writing with the vigour of an old lady mailing the marks and sparks complaints office.

The Verve Poetry Competition has great prizes to win: 1st prize £500, 2nd £250 and 3rd prize worth £100. The authors of the best fifteen poems will be invited to read alongside six commissioned poets at our City Poetry Event at Verve 2018!

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Colson Whitehead
Excerpt from The Colossus of New York

‘There are eight million naked cities in this naked city – they dispute and disagree. The New York City you live is not my New York City; how could it be? This place multiplies when you’re not looking. We move over here, we move over there. Over a lifetime, that adds up to a lot of neighborhoods, the motley construction material of your jerry built metropolis. Your favorite newsstands, restaurants, movie theatres, subway stations and barbershops are replaced by your next neighborhood’s favorites. It gets to be quite a sum. Before you know it, you have your own personal skyline.’

* * *

Mimmo Jodice
Napoli

Napoli - Jodice Mimmo

* * *

Teju Cole
Excerpt from Everyday is for the Thief

‘One goes to the market to participate in the world. As with all things that concern the world, being in the market requires caution. Always, the market – as the essence of the city – is alive with possibility and with danger. Strangers encounter each other in the world’s infinite variety; vigilance is needed. Everyone is there not merely to buy or sell, but because it is a duty. If you sit in your house, if you refuse to go to market, how would you know of the existence of others? How would you know of your own existence?’

* * *

Nakasu, Tokyo at Night

* * *

Roi Kwabena
Excerpt from ‘Birmingham – Capital of Culture’

cuisines galore
carnivals in the shadow of public art
an entire district dedicated to balti
Luna society of scientific enquiry
Aston hall where royalty dined
Abolitionists, friends and metal smiths
confer as harvested chocolate is still prepared
sporting arenas and automobile engines fine tuned

* * *

Alex Webb
Cuba. Sancti Spiritus. 1993. Baseball fans

CUBA. Sancti Spiritus. 1993. Baseball fans.

* * *

Adrian Henri
Excerpt from ‘Liverpool Poems’

6

Note for a definition of optimism:
A man trying the door of Yates Wine Lodge
At quarter past four in the afternoon.
7

I have seen Pare UBU walking across Lime St
And Alfred Jarry cycling down Elliott Street.

8

And I Saw DEATH in Upper Duke St
Cloak flapping black tall Batman collar
Striding tall shoulders down the hill past the Cathedral brown shoes slightly down at the heel

9

Unfrocked Chinese mandarins holding lonely feasts in
Falkner Sq gardens to enjoy the snow.

10

Prostitutes in the snow in Canning St like strange erotic
snowmen
And Marcel Proust in the Kardomah eating Madeleine
butties dipped in tea.

* * *

Berenice Abbot
Hardware Store, NYC

Berenice Abbot - Hardware Store

* * *

Talking Heads
‘Don’t Worry About the Government’ (from Talking Heads 77)

‘It’s over there, it’s over there
My building has every convenience
It’s gonna make life easy for me
It’s gonna be easy to get things done
I will relax alone with my loved ones

Loved ones, loved ones visit the building
Take the highway, park and come up and see me
I’ll be working, working but if you come visit
I’ll put down what I’m doing, my friends are important’

* * *

Peter Ackroyd
Excerpt from London

‘There was another characteristic urban process, too, with development along the lines of the main roads followed by a consolidation of the areas between the thoroughfares so that, as The Builder of 1885 put it, “the growth of the solid nucleus, with but few interstices left open, has been nothing less than prodigious.” By the 1850s the city began to lose its population to areas such as Canonbury to the north, and Walworth to the south. The advent of cheap “workmen’s fares” meant that areas close to a railway station could be quickly inhabited; thus there emerged “working-class” suburbs such as Tottenham and East Ham. The drift was gathering pace and by the 1860s the clerk and the shopkeeper desired nothing but a little villa “out of town.” An observer perched on top of Primrose Hill, in 1862, noted that “the metropolis has thrown out its arms and embraced us, not yet with a stifling clutch, but with ominous closeness.’

* * *

Tony Monero (John Travolta) Walks the streets of Brooklyn
Extract from Saturday Night Fever

* * *

Paul Strand
Wall Street (1915)

Wall_Street_by_Paul_Strand,_1915

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