19 July 2011

Lemn Sissay's 'Flags', Tib Street, Manchester

Lemn Sissay's poem 'Flags' is written into the sidewalk of Tib Street, Manchester, from Market Street toward Swan Street, and stretches a little less than a mile, on the righthand side of the street only. Sometimes, where stones have disappeared, you have to guess the missing letters, which is usually easy, but very occasionally comprehension is impossible. Sometimes you have to kick aside cigarette ends to read more clearly, or wait for a momentarily parked car to move. This is living poetry, uncertain poetry, where people oblige by walking into the road as you take your photo, but no one stares at you, you merge with the life of the street.

Occasionally, I may have gotten something wrong, and I'm sure someone will tell me so, knowing I won't mind. I could, of course, pretend that the error was deliberate. And then, perhaps the person who laid the stones got something wrong, or the poet is occasionally mischievous. Just to keep us on our toes.

 Lemn Sissay

THESE PAVEMENT CRACKS
ARE THE PLACES WHERE
POETS PACK THEIR
WARRIOR WORDS

THESE PAVEMENT
CRACKS ARE THE
PLACES WHERE
SLEEPING SHADOWS
OF MOVING
BRIDGES STOLE


WHERE DYING
DUST OF DREAMS
SLIDES WHERE
THE SLITS SILT
TURNS TO FOOD

WHERE HOME
TRUTHS TRICKLE
HOME AND CONFIDE
WHERE THE SILENT
FORESTS BROOD


WHERE SPINES BENT
?? THE BRIDGES
ARCHES WHERE THEY
VAULTED WITH A
SICE(?) TO ? SPEAK

AND UNITY SOWN
ON TO THE SKIN
OF ALL TRADES
PERHAPS THEYRE
A SCRIPT WORDS
OF THE STREET

PERHAPS THESE PAVEMENT
CRACKS ARE THE PLACES
AWHERE FLATTENED FLAGS
LIES SOLIDIFIED WAVES

THE TELLING LINES
WITHIN A SEA OF FACES
WHERE SUFFERERS
TAKE COVER
OF STREET CAVES

WHERE WANDER THE
WAYWARD AND LOST
WHERE THE RUNAWAY
CAN CHART HIS
JOURNEY BACK HOME

WHERE THE WATER RUNS
AS THE WORLD DEFROSTS
THE STREET BREATHES
BENEATH THIS STONE

AND PERHAPS THE
PAVEMENT CRACKS ARE
THE PATTERN OF
CONCRETE BUTTERFLIES

WHERE THOUGHTS
CAREFULLY
CULTIVATED
WAITING TO
WAKEN GROW
WINGS AND FLY

LIKE US THEY HOLD

THE PEOPLE OF A
MODERN EARTH
THIS WORLD
BETWEEN THE
WINDSWEPT FLAGS

WHERE PAVEMENT
CRACKS ARE THE
PLACES WHERE
SLEEPING SHADOWS
OF MOVING
BRIDGES STOLE

THE COLD

ADDENDUM: Lemn Sissay has now won the vote for Chancellor of the University of Manchester. Phew! I'm very pleased to say he easily beat the horrendous Peter Mandelson: we don't want dinosaurs, especially hypocrites like the architect of New Labour!
 
Links to my other posts of Lemn Sissay public poems are given below:

–––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––
Lemn Sissay's Poetry in Manchester
The Art of Michael Visocchi and Lemn Sissay in London
Hardys Well and Lemn Sissay's Poem
Lemn Sissay's 'RAIN'

2 comments:

An American in Rotterdam said...

Thanks for documenting these. I see on Flickr there are a few 2006 and 2007 photos with the text complete. Like for example- "WHERE RAIN RUSHES DOWN GRIT ROCK FACES WHERE THE HEARTLESS HEAT CROUCHES BENEATH THE COLD"
http://www.flickr.com/photos/hey_mippy/116493864/in/photostream

Landscape art installations were never intended to outlast us. They weather, decay and disappear with environmental influences and unplanned interventions. Thanks for showing these sections as they are in 2011. Cheers!

Dr Tony Shaw said...

Thanks a lot for this. I shall look at the photos and make adjustments in a few weeks - I don't have time at the moment as I'm too busy in Paris. Your blog sounds interesting: I shall have to have a look at that too.