My new pamphlet, Elastic Glue, is due for publication by The Emma Press at the end of this month. Its poems are mostly about place – who owns it and how it makes us. One of these places is Covent Garden where I, an incomer, have lived for 40+ years, in the corner known as Seven Dials – home of the broadsheet and the ballad.
Most people think of the area as a honeypot of dinky shops, bars and restaurants, with some very expensive flats for short-term let or foreign investors – and that’s true. But it’s not the whole picture. It’s also home to successive generations of people who worked in the fruit and vegetable market, the theatres and the print. When two of these mass employers were relocated, the people didn’t quietly go away. They stayed to fight a prolonged and complicated community-led battle with developers – both the benign but misguided and the opportunistic – to save their neighbourhood. They were successful. Covent Garden was not flattened. The community was not 'decanted'. Most importantly, a substantial quantity of social housing was built, much of it tucked into gaps. But the success was double-edged as the area became an increasingly desirable proposition. The struggle now is to maintain a foothold in this heavily-marketed prime real estate and a sense of normality, surrounded as we are by pop-ups and fairy lights.
Another place which features in several poems in Elastic Glue is an allotment site. This one happens to be near Twickenham stadium but could be anywhere. Allotments seem to me to be emblematic, a microcosm of the country, subject to a sort of gentrification and also on a frontline of sorts, with their own diverse and chippy communities who, like Covent Gardeners, feel fiercely that they own the land they occupy and cultivate.
So this is a political pamphlet, channelled through the personal, because I’m a child of my times, and, I hope, funny in parts, because how could we bear it otherwise? And there are lots of people in it, from Eliot, Lenin and Renzo Piano to Chicken Jim, the Fred Collinses and the biodynamic Hippy and me in my knickers and vest. I hope you’re tempted to have a look.
Edwin Morgan's Sweeping Out the Dark (Carcanet); Terrance Haye's American Sonnets for my Past and Future Assassin (Penguin Poetry); and The Rialto.