A weekend before I moved from London in 2018, I took myself out on an artist’s date in Southwark. I walked up and down the Southwark bridge that evoked countless stories set on the banks of the Thames. Enjoyed watching The Taming of the Shrew at the Globe. Wandered around the Tate and amused myself contemplating Alexander McCall Smith’s reflections on modern art in his novels. Bought gifts from the Tate shop for friends in Chennai, including one who is a fanatic fan of Salvador Dali. But what I remember the most about that day was how I chanced upon a couple of men who sat with typewriters on the road, with a sign saying they would write poems on any topic, pay what you like.
I asked for, and bought a poem about what I love the most about England – the English language.
I was reminded of this when I watched the door-to-door poetry performance by Rowan McCabe yesterday at the Old Fire Station theatre. A rendering of how the poet conceived this project and his experiences visiting places across the map of England, and talking to people from all sections of British society as he tries to sell the idea of giving him some of their time while he composes and recites a free poem to them.
Some of these poems were poignant, like the mum who wanted a poem on her sixteen year old daughter who was stabbed to death, and the young girl from Syria who wanted to become an architect and is now on the way to realising her dream. Some of the encounters were amusing, such as when McCabe tries to persuade the security staff outside the posh homes in Kensington Gardens to let him compose a poem for them. Some were intriguing, like his visit to the remote island of Lundy.
I especially liked McCabe’s description of the quaint English village of Grantchester and how he tried to meet and give a poem to Jeffrey Archer. (I once discussed Rupert Brooke’s statue in Grantchester with an archaeology Professor from Cambridge who mentioned with wry British humour, how the other author who lived there was just the kind of man who was likely to put up a statue for himself).
I had to refrain myself from clapping spontaneously more than once during the performance, such as after hearing the poem to Jacqueline the Romani traveller who says she is at home everywhere.
A wonderful initiative and an hour well spent, reinforcing the ability of the arts to invoke the interconnectedness of humanity.
To find out more about Door to Door poetry, see here https://doortodoorpoetry.com/ Highly recommended.