- Series: Salmon Poetry
- Paperback: 87 pages
- Publisher: Salmon Poetry (October 22, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1907056270
- ISBN-13: 978-1907056277
- Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.3 x 8.1 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,733,565 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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This London (Salmon Poetry)
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The collection is not chronological but the poems do travel in time. We stand with Boudicca as she revenges her people with the sack of Londinium; we're with Shakespeare at the Globe Theater and the crowd at a hanging at Tyburn; we experience the fire of 1666 and we see the boys off for France at Charing Cross Station:
Seeing the Great War at Charing Cross Station
It is 2007 today, but it feels more like 1917.
Squinting through a kaleidoscope of history,
an army is here, rifles slung over their knapsacks,
they are spun toward no-man's land.
These soldiers walk on healthy legs,
they have yet to be baptized by the oil of war.
Women cheer them off into a termite existence,
where they will become little wasps
caught in pus, and mud, and bones.
Kisses are blown,
like from that blonde over there,
the one next to Delice de France-a pastry shop
that sells croissants dripping with the blood of jam.
I watch her boyfriend, dressed in a trenchcoat,
step into a train, waving.
His hand is swallowed from view
and he is gone,
This sense of beauty and harsh reality pervades the poems. Hicks wanders the streets above the bones of the plague victims; he sees the grave of the unknown soldier at Westminster Abbey; he experiences the great stink of 11858 when the odor of the Thames nearly emptied the city. He sees the tawdriness of the strip shops in Soho, and stands with the Ripper in a Whitechapel alley.
He knows this city, and knows it well, but loves it almost in spite of itself. It's a city that speaks at some deeper level, and he knows he finds himself there.
"This London" makes me want to go back, to see the British Museum with its all things un-British, and Tennyson's stone in the Abbey, and the chapel of St. Peter ad Vincula in the Tower, with all the famous bones buried below its floor stones. And I will take these poems with me, and read them aloud.
Though politics is not his aim, humanism pervades his observations--Hicks finds glory in history but not in conquest; he admires Britishness at the same time he questions its existence; he is intrigued by our shared humanity. He writes like a scholar, but not a pedant; rather, his voice is that of a curious bystander and daydreamer.
Dictionary n.f [dictionarium, Latin.] 1. A book holding words of any language in alphabetical order; 2. a lexicon; 3. a word pool that mirrors social thought.
Back during the gin craze of the 1700s,
when colonial bounty was stacked across London,
Samuel Johnson felt words flow around him.
His bulk, like an O, buoyed him in pubs and palaces,
syllables broke against the gunwale of his ear.
A book was planned, and his amanuenses
(they entered that word on page three),
flapped open a great net of ink.--
Johnson hunched at his desk like a C
and sorted speech into kingdoms.
For years he stood like a Y directing traffic,
shepherding words into their stalls,
everything from aardvark to zebu.
When Johnson's great ship of a book
was finally launched into public thought,
his black manservant, Frank Barber,
picked up the Middle Passage of words
that he had helped to quill.
He looked up words like empire
and independence and slave.
This freeman knew the power of connotation,
he stood as rigid and as proper as a capital I,
and he insisted that the word abolition be included,
so that the world could see it, chained onto page one.