Control Room: Sail Away

I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in an amazing project in Bristol, where the city council have started letting out empty spaces for art takeovers. Sail Away betroths the seas of Cornwall to the river of Bristol through art and poetry. Situated in the old control room that operates Redcliffe Bridge, it maps my life: when I lived in Bristol, I lived on this river; in Falmouth I have observed the sea.

With over 100 origami ships sailing the seas of the controls for Redcliffe Bridge, the space is minimally decorated; telling stories of the river.

River stories in Bristol

Poetry and art speaking of the sea

As a professional writer, the idea of the installation was to get people interested and promote reading and literacy. I decided to use some of my poetry about rivers and tales of the sea to decorate the exhibition too.

Poetry featured in the exhibition includes:

Colours

Blue is the colour of the deep sea, of high skies and of cracking ice in Antarctica; a place of bleak austerity where nothing grows and hardly anything lives. Blue overrides everything, blue is nothing, and blue fades into blue when we try to locate the horizon. Blue is the colour of the curling tendrils of smoke that dance from a thousand cigarettes, the colour of body bags and the colour of the dark veins running along the hands that hold you. Blue is the eyes that haunt me.

 

Black is oil pouring from crevices in the ocean, black is the bottom of a mine, the back of a cave and the hollow centre of an eyeball. Black is death and cancer. Black is engulfing, endless and enduring, and like its counterpart, black is at once both empty and full, nothing and ceaseless possibility.

 

Green is the colour of newness, freshness, of jungles and fruit trees and the glowing guardian of springtime. Green glistens on giddy waters and ripples through riparian banks. Green is also duplicitous; it stains rooftops of decaying copper

Voices

I was looking for new ways to talk about old things.

Is that not the job of the poet, like the magician,

as Wordsworth says;

to present ordinary situations about low and rustic life

in familiar language?

But to present them in a way that makes them extraordinary.

We start our journey in Falmouth,

taking us through its stages and ours within and without it.

You can even smell the flocks of florists displays

and see the fragments of shredded love notes

the school-girl trickled from her pockets on the journey home.

Like a modern day Gretel,

whose words clatter like pebbles on the cobbled streets

and whose gingerbread

is the sweet taste of nicotine

inhaled at the bus stop.

 

And feel the acrid blade of urine hit your throat when you walk

beside the old man who sifts the ground

to perpetrate his respiratory problems

with the used ends of anything he can;

menthols,

cigars

and Lambert and Butler.

Liquorice,

and thick papers, thin papers, tobacco from around the world.

 

Breathe the singed skin smell of the tattoo parlour .

Cough now as the tar mix hits the back of your throat and your head

rattles with the pneumatic drill in all its

irregular,

erratic and

irrational

repetition.

 

Listen to the sepulchral organ;

grinding out of tune and into the streets.

Its deadening chords in synch with the relentless

sighing chime

of time

of the bell.

 

Past the secret doorways, favoured by thieves;

each echoing times now changed.

Glimpses between houses;

like picture postcards showing snapshots

of seascapes,

sliding into the sea with its rattling flotilla

gently tugging on the water of one of the deepest natural harbours in the world.

Caustic waves

of vinegar from a thousand fish suppers

under the bunting.

And feel the tiny droplets of rain moisten your cracked and dried lips

as you see the colours lighting the sky

and in the rain and the storm;

the war ships stand grey and cumbersome

while the peace dove roosts on the rooftops

and coo-coos under

the sound of thunder.

 

This is the town where nothing happens.

 

Cornish writer installs ships in Bristol harbour

Overlooking the river, words set sail to the sea

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