Dickinson College Humanities Program in Norwich

London is a Writer’s City

September 20, 2010 · No Comments

London has been a city inspiring to writers in every era since it was a Roman colony. I was hoping I would experience this side of London, the London of Chaucer, Dickens, and Jack London, who was an American writer inspired by both the grace and grit of London’s streets. I was not disappointed. Here are three unedited poems I have written so far in London.

The first poem was clearly written after our trip to the Proms at Royal Albert Hall. I was struck by the interaction between the audience and the musicians, something pretty much unseen at classical concerts in the US.

Concert Night

On a summer’s eve in Albert Hall

The second trumpet player slowly grew a beard

The cellos moaned a melody of courtly love

Somewhere in the balcony a woman coughed

The children felt sleepy

A flute missed a note

And in the background the bass drum

Sat quietly

Waiting to release



The next poem is a little rougher. It was based off an exhibit I saw at the Tate Modern and heavily influenced by the massive amount of theatre I have seen in the past few weeks. The instillation I am refereeing to was a big ruffled red theatre curtain that was closed and would never open. It was interesting, especially when juxtaposed to the lively theatre community in London. This one does not have a title yet.

What is behind the curtain that will never rise

In the theatre of what-will-be?

Maybe there is already a play of sorts

Running in the darkness behind the thick velvet curtain

And we will see nothing but this thick velvet curtain

And wonder if you can ever truly lay with beauty

But not realize that

The world is a stage and beauty is a motif of love

And all the while behind the curtain

(that is the opposite of transparent )

The silence goes unbroken

And the audience listens to make sure

That the only little soliloquy barely being breathed

Was inside themselves

The last poem is the ubiquitous East End during the Victorian era poem. I was especially interested by the church that until recently was the center of drug addiction in the area. The allusion to the church in the poem is based on that one. Also talking with some members of the Jack the Ripper tour group about the history and looks of that area helped me to write this.

Visions of White Chapel

All covered with shit and spit and stale beer

Whose alleyways were filled with misery and decay

Where even the churches hunch and cower

To keep their bells below the skyline

And there is no place like London

Where the underground ends and the streets

Lay barren below fog and soot

And here are the seamen, drunk on rum

Here are the cock-sure wretches of night

Here are the ladies with thighs so red

Here are the hopes of London

Poured with relish

Into the



Categories: 2010 MatthewG

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