Mutant poetry

Ever since I read Mutants, I’ve been mulling over the idea of writing a group of poems around the idea of mutants and mutation.

The human (and indeed animal) stories – poor old Charles Byrne, freak-shows, the Elephant Man, court dwarves, superheroes and so on – are interesting source material; the science is somewhat interesting and provides extra source material by its connection to natural selection, ontogeny, Chernobyl, teratogens; the general idea of mutation has all sorts of metaphorical possibilties; and the word is attention-grabbing.

One possibility would be a set of ‘mutant sonnets’. The baseline of an established form would allow the formal mutation of the poems to be made apparent. Alternatively, the language could be ‘mutated’ in other ways. And the theme doesn’t have to extend to formal/linguistic considerations at all.

Something to consider. Perhaps a trip to the Hunterian is in order.

silences at-a-glance

The phrase ‘Silences at-a-glance’ was used by the BBC to link to this page. It’s practically a poem in itself. Or perhaps a title for a poem or sequence of poems.

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the chirping of sparrows

The chirping of sparrows is a key human noise, a key human experience.

the essential noise of humanity (humanness)

most human of noises

the sparrow is the human soul. (id?)

throwing croissant crumbs/bits of chip/whatever to the sparrows. Chirping among the roof-tiles. dust-bathing.

I’ve been very conscious of sparrows since they disappeared from this part of London a few years ago. There were lots at the hotel in Egypt – the noise is so cheerful, and so deep-down familiar. People think of ‘chirping’ as a generic bird-noise, but actually it’s not, it’s very specific to sparrows.

Sparrows are only found in association with people – their original habitat is unknown.

From a US website: “Perhaps the most citified of birds, this import’s incessant chattering, quarrelsome disposition, and abundance about human habitations distinguish it from our native sparrows. Actually, it is not a sparrow at all, but a weaver finch.” Surely it would be more true to say that American sparrows are not sparrows at all.

Catullus. Some haiku? Who killed cock robin.

There’s a poem in there somewhere.

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possible poem for tomorrow

in case I forget

I cut a slice through my fingernail a few days (a week?) ago, while cooking. It’s nearly grown out. I read once that the moon retreats from the earth at about the same speed our fingernails grow. I can see that growth happening. I feel there’s a poem in it somewhere.

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while in the tree, the dunnock flicks its wings

idea for poem: 30 final lines

under sodium streetlights, daffodils are the same colour as concrete

the smell of smoke turns a spring night into autumn

I don’t know why I’m producing all this nature-stuff particularly. ho-hum

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more thoughts on ID/evolution

it may be unwise of me to try and do US atmosphere/imagery too much, since I’m not of there. But hey-ho.

Bryan Newbury’s post From Flatlands to Flat Earth is interesting, but perhaps not enough to build a whole poem around.

What do I know about Kansas? I went across it once on a Greyhound from Salt Lake City to Kansas City. My considered opinion – golly it’s flat. It makes Norfolk look like Switzerland. Again, not enough to build a poem around.

It’s suggestive that the only Western country where the teaching of evolution is controversial (as far as I know) is the one with the biggest legacy of racial tension. The Scopes Trial took place in apartheid Tennessee. The US is also unusually religious, of course, but as far as I know, other countries where religion is often a political force, like Italy and Ireland, are fine with evolution. Even Ian Paisley, who is as crazy as a ferret, doesn’t seem very interested in the subject.

Which is odd, really, because you’d think that evolution gave more scope for racist ideas than creationism. Or at least, creationism in the loose sense could allow for separate creations for people of different races, but creationism rooted in biblical literalism is surely restricted by the Adam and Eve story. “When Adam delved and Eve span, Who was then a gentleman?”, as Wat Tyler put it.

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more foxes and ID

I was really annoyed by an article in the paper on the campaign to get ‘Intelligent Design’ taught in schools as an alternative to natural selection. Hence the ditty in the last post.

But I would like to come up with a more substantial poem on the subject.


The angels are winning in Kansas.

scared of the inner ape

Oh nothing could be finer
than to be in Carolina
where everyone’s the work
of an intelligent designer


appendices/lower back pain yadda yadda yadda.

QUOTATION:A hairy quadruped, furnished with a tail and pointed ears, probably arboreal in its habits. ATTRIBUTION:Charles Darwin (1809

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foxy stuff, again

more on foxes as symbols of… something

There are of course many London subcultures which are not very visible, not because they are marginalised, but because they are outnumbered – pearly kings, City guilds, Morris dancers, punks, model plane enthusiasts. Are they less interesting?

As night falls, London fills with foxes

shadows in the yellow darkness

slip away.

trot, nose down.

pause (still, frozen, something) and look at you

And of course marginality isn’t simply ethnic etc – West Indians, Bangladeshis, Turks are clearly recognised as part of the London scene; but not so much Somalis, Poles etc.

Oddness which *isn’t* tied to ethnicity, sexuality, religion etc might be more interesting.


The sex trade is marginalised (and indeed nocturnal, to some extent) though it must be as big a part of the London economy as fish and chips.

Perhaps something less literal – philosophicopsychological, f’rinstance. Or more spatially driven.

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trees and stuff.

I notice ‘pollarded’ trees everywhere now. Nearly every tree in the city has been hacked around at one point or another.


The *appearance* of naturalness

The difficulty is communicating the background info (actually I’ve changed my mind about this).

The way knowledge changes your perceptions.

A tree only has to be cut once to be visibly scarred/reshaped for ever. There’s an easy sentimental poem in that which I *don’t* want to write. Or an easy Man vs. Nature one.

Other things that show the evidence of their history?
People, obviously. Anything else?

A more general look at trees being shaped by their circumstances? position, weather etc.

Moo Mixer – It’s a tasty tornado in your hand!

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fox space

~ An editorial note: two things come together. The increasing dormancy of stormy petrel, and a galling realisation, in the face of Eduardo’s call for blogger’s notebooks (see the PB for details): not only have I hardly written any poetry recently, but I haven’t even got any notebook-jottings I could offer as evidence of thought. So begins an experiment in online notebooking. Who knows if it will sustain. ~

walking through suburban London at night, you see many foxes. Where do they live?

I assume in the little areas of dead land – the spaces between; undeveloped plots, railway cuttings, the irregular bits left unowned and unwalked. Under garden sheds.

so they become a symbol for interstitiality in all its forms.


human lives in the interstices: the semi-visible lives of Rwandan, Somalian communities in London. Little churches with extravagant-sounding names (between a greengrocer and a post-office? something banal). The sudden appearance of hundreds of Koreans in Trafalgar Sq. when they beat Italy (Spain? both?) in the World Cup.

The mentally ill?

tip of the iceberg

Linguistic fox-space? The elusive, the marginal – thieves’ cant, cockney rhyming slang.

Poems as foxes – operating in the spaces between obvious. Or operating from the margins to make use of the public spaces of language when people’s attention is elsewhere.

Picking up the immigrant theme – possible intersection with the idea of buddleia (exotic, colourful, hardy, naturalised) as a flower to represent London: using the unused spaces, the building lots, railway arches, walls.

Is the nocturnalness interesting?

Is it interesting that foxes are more visible in the city than the country?

Peregrines nesting on the Dome.

I suppose rats are interstitial, too, but they live in sewers and things, which is a rather different relationship to the people around them. Still, a thought.

Reminds me of another theme I’ve considered before: specialism vs. generalism in wildlife. We tend to admire the specialists – the cheetah, the hummingbird, the arctic tern – as some kind of peak of evolution/aesthetics. But we are generalists. The adaptable species – the rats, the pigeons, the sparrows – are our natural kin. Sort of.

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