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Ben Barton and Jennifer Harris

 

 

Poetry Kit interview with Ben

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    PROSPECT  - A COLLABORATION

     

    PROSPECT started off as an art installation – I wrote poems and Jen took the photographs. It is based around Dungeness in Kent – Jen and I both grew up on the Romney Marsh and if I walk behind the woods in my back garden I can see Dungeness. So I still feel this strong connection to the place.

     

    Together Jen and I make these pilgrimages there... Some of the images she has captured are just stunning. They really show what a unique place it is, so unlike anywhere else in this country. I on the other hand have something less tangible – I take home ideas and feelings, as well as the odd jotting in my workbook. It is then up to me to make something real out of it – ink on paper. (Ben Barton)

     

    You can find out more about the project is here: http://benbarton.co.uk/prospect.htm

     

     

     

    Prospect Cottage

     

    I’d forgotten how large it is

    As though shrunken in my brain, after years

    of stop-starting

    And magazine flicking

    wearing out my thumbs.

    Today I’m alone in your secluded bower

    scooped out of stones and

    hammered in the Fallout Zone.

    Strength

    you must have felt it, sleeping

    inside those tarred planks

    Nothing more than that

    are they?

    Aside

    there’s just your scorched roses, lit

    under an ochre sky

    and the wildflowers, rooted in patches

    of hot asphalt

    I can see them all.

    Without you it fights on

    battling the diamond chips, the sea air

    An old friend.

    I know what to expect

    as it inflates my lungs

    the way it always has

    While behind us

    The sea gobbles away at the boats

    in unison with the weeping rain

    and my dry, unblinking eyes.

     

     

     

     

     

    Nuclear Family

     

     

    She spends her afternoons lazing

    fat thighs squeezed inside a deck chair

    toes digging in shingle

    Her sunburn itching under Asda viscose

    blinded by white heat

    and a dusting of fission

    The radio is her birdsong.

    On the hot days she rarely moves

    But watches

    sunglassed men in BMWs

    traversing the bumpy road… to ‘that man’s’ garden

    something she will never understand.

    Not ever

    will she do that.

            Together we stare

    knowing we shouldn’t.

    Blink and you’re in a southern state

    Tumbleweeds of litter

    have blown over the Atlantic

    along with the flotsam

    they crashed into

    the dry brush

    Staining

    this thirsty landscape.

            But she doesn’t notice

    because never

    will she do that.

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Dungeness2

     

    far, far from here

    in the Seventh Sea

    Across the Strait of Juan

    there breathes another

    in name only

    doused in the lavender of Sequim

    the sweat of Port Angeles

    yet more toward

    our pilgrim brothers, cousins

    not side-stepping

    The Strong People.

            Another lighthouse too

    guarding

    Stretches of sand

    reaching out to the sea

    Nethuns’ finger

    stirring up

    the drifting sediments

    have been fabled as the longest

    by modern cartographers

    Perhaps we should entrust them as much

    As our politicians –

    never with our lives.

    Though all this

    it must be said

    lies incomparable

    to the battered stonework

    that lies on our map point

    here in

    the Fifth Continent,

    proud

    Waters of Kent.

     

     

     

    Mr Jarman Next Door

     

    The first time I met you

    was in the Tempest

    or else the golden sands of Sardinia

    or some BFI-funded short

    I can’t remember now.

            Although I do know I was in love

    from the start

    I hunted

    in the morning rains

    those Sundays before Christian civility

    with the lilac perms and

    chapped hands

    wares from Metro boots

    Holy day flea markets

            I was the youngest there

    and short changed too

    yet silver-tongued

    to charm a dented VHS

    to my grubby

    Adolescent hands

            The Blue video

    No one else would

    understand me, but you

    even though at the time

    you were barely cold

    Not dead a year.

            Our local celebrity taken,

    and I bet you just hated that

    Didn’t you?

            No more visits to our

    local bookshop, which

    I know you plundered

    with relish, those

    well wrought tomes

    light by your hands.

            No more Pet Shop Boys

    in the Pilot

    Not dead a year

            Still they come

    to the stony beds

    To stare and steal

    Your pebbles

    to rub and kiss them

    So charged with your mysteries

    is what they choose to believe.

            I remember your funeral

    St Nicks dank with

    wilted flowers

    Those ladies and their rota, fuck

    knows what they

    Would have made

    of your ataxia

    buggery

    and cropped-out erections

    But that day none of it mattered

    The high street quiet, grey

            I know they felt the parting too

    creaking pews, sad eyes,

    and paper programmes

    limp and sweaty, through

    the speeches and the songs.

            This is no place for the choir boy

    They thought, as though

    you could leave me a lasting impression

    Like our fingers today,

    scraped in the wet sand, while

    sipping our cheap wine

    one up from the pyramid brace

    in the shadow of Prospect.

            You of course

    Have left me so much more, not

    a legacy or anything

    Like that. But a window,

    one I can look in to,

            not out.

    We captured your

    Head of Mausolus this way

    like a shadowy reed,

    swaying, knocking in the mists

            Leaning into the window

    I grabbed it

    It was your hand.

           

     

     

     

     

     


     

    This Beach

     

    Pebbles and rocks, laid to rest like old men

    though snug as warm eggs, and eager

    To tell us the story of time.

    Ancient wisdoms strewn in shingle, the flood

    assaulting the shore

    You and I, we cannot think

    of those who ground these stones to powder ash

    or the caress of the linen robe

    Sea kale stroking an ankle

    measuring his gait

    As he stepped

    on to the land

    Which was not that at all

    But a bobbing raft

    suspended,

    leaning on the coastal shelf

    temporarily

            Until piece by piece

    stone by stone

    it collapses like quicksand

            And as it crashes all around us

    I take one last look

    to see the other poets

    Studying a whirlwind of shadows.

     

     




     


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