Rotunda #6: Rag Tree

Over the last couple of days I’ve been talking a bit about the pitfalls of only looking from above – the loss of detail and scale. Today I went for a run (I’ve been doing the NHS Couch to 5K plan, which as well as an important personal challenge is a really interesting way to navigate and discover the city) along the canal from Fazeley Street in Digbeth to… well, I was originally planning to run fifteen minutes from there and fifteen minutes back. But after a while it was unusually sunny, and the changing landscape was pretty, and I had almost no idea where I was, so I just decided to keep going, through what I think was Small Heath, past the Ackers, and eventually emerged in Tyseley to catch the train back.

This is a photo from the station -my skills leave a lot to be desired, but you can just about make out the towers of the city centre in the distance. I like knowing I can get this far, metaphorically and literally (a phrase it’s no longer possible to use unironically in the wake of the Ghostbusters remake), and as I ran the poem taking shape in my head became to some extent about that increasing distance and the emotional resonance that came with it. I’ve always been attracted to the way you can see the city in a different way from the canals – the backs of things you can’t quite identify, and the scrappy greenery  hidden behind the brick and concrete at street level.

Today I thought it might be interesting to share the poem as a handwritten draft. It doesn’t look particularly messy, which isn’t intended to be a humblebrag – I tend to do a lot of the actual writing, the arranging of words, in my head before putting them on paper. Writing on a screen probably involves more rewriting for me, because the replacement of things that don’t work is so much easier and the evidence of failure is erased – a perfectionist tendency which I know sometimes stops me putting anything down on paper at all. But here it is in written form, half-assed attempts at italics and all. If you enjoy it, the route it describes is definitely worth exploring at whatever pace, though you’ll see that it’s conveyed out of order – not quite in a rear-view mirror, but approaching and retreating from the central subject. Probably easiest to just walk it in the normal order…

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