Sunday, 12 February 2017


Brand names in poems - some people like them, some don't.  My poem was set on a Virgin (mentioned) train, drinking a cup of Starbucks (unmentioned but you might guess from the mermaid) coffee.  Someone in the poetry workshop said, "I think you should take out the Virgin", to which someone else responded, "Oh no, you should keep the Virgin" [the Virgin stays - for the moment].

Brand names can contribute all sorts of things - specificity, humour, colour, all the web of references conjured up in well-known brands.  Sean O'Brien's "The Plain Truth of the Matter" tells us everything we associate with Marmite in the first two lines:
"There are two tribes this world can boast -
  The Marmite-lovers and the damned"
(yes, you can see the rhyme with toast coming a mile off but there's such humour in that inevitability that I forgive him).

On Friday I went to Wolverhampton to meet my son at IKEA (Wolverhampton is half way between the far north of England where I live and the south west where he lives).  We bought coffees and lunch and browsed the room layouts looking for design ideas.

It set me thinking about IKEA in poetry.  Philip Gross's crown of sonnets "Fantasia on a Theme from IKEA" is a tour de force but it is not the first mention of the Swedish furniture company in poetry.  Edwin Morgan's poem "For the Opening of the Scottish Parliament, 9 October 2004" celebrates the leafy whimsicality of the parliament building's architecture:
"The parts cohere, they come together like petals of a flower"
 - it's not "a blissfully boring box", it's "no icon, no IKEA, no iceberg, but curves and caverns, nooks and niches, huddles and heavens, syncopations and surprises.  Leave symmetry to the cemetery".

Adam Thorpe describes a panic attack in a crowded store:
"Hitting Cuisines in the new IKEA,
besieged by hobs, I was paralysed
by the arrows on the floor.
This is the only way, they claimed."
The narrator starts to walk against the arrows and escapes into the dazzle of the outside world.

That's enough product-placement for one post.

Back to the wildness.  A few months ago I was travelling down on the same route and just before Wolverhampton station I saw a fox walking purposefully along the railway tracks of an adjacent junction.  An urban survivor and thriver.

Sean O' Brien "The Plain Truth of the Matter" November (Picador 2011)
Philip Gross "Fantasia on a Theme from IKEA" The Water Table (Bloodaxe 2009)
Edwin Morgan "For the Opening of the Scottish Parliament, 9 October 2004" A Book of Lives (Carcanet 2007)
Adam Thorpe "Panic" Voluntary (Cape 2012)

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