The merits of ‘the Arts’, or poetry in this case and it’s relevance (or otherwise) to the modern world is one of those things that tends to divide a room . Now, I for one enjoy poetry, heck I’ve even got a poetry blog WaterShed, and I read a lot of poetry too, but I’ve got to say I’m utterly baffled by C&RT’s first birthday shenanigans – carving lines of poetry into lock gates – what were they thinking?!?

Surely, there’s an appropriate time and a place for everything? And for me poetry reading is something akin to a contemplative process, and it’s definitely one that exists either in book form or spoken. To my mind poetry opens all kinds of imaginative avenues and adventures, but fan that I am, I absolutely DON’T want it rammed down my throat whilst cruising down the canal and certainly don’t want it desecrating fabulous, historical remnants such as lock gates.

I admit that I’m a fan of one of the poets who’s work is involved in the current furore – Roy Fisher (or HERE) who’s majestic collected works: The Long and the Short Of It Poems 1955-2010 is a personal favourite. His writing on the industrial landscape around Birmingham is heartfelt, respectful and powerful, as (perhaps) this extract from his Text for a Film shows:

6. Abstracted Water

Abstracted water, captive for a while,
becomes abstract, a proposition in hydraulics,

slops through lock-machines, goes level,
carries coal, parties, makes money,

slides back into Nature, used. If it hadn’t come
leaking out of the hills to be cornered

you could synthesise it: a float medium,
liquid vermiculite, a thin gel

flavoured with diesel,
rust, warm discharges.

The Cut’s a notion, an idea clearer than a river,
and closed at both ends. It’s venture-water.

The design depth doesn’t allow for motorbikes, or
layers of sunken gondolas from supermarkets;

Garbage In, Garbage Out. The boat called ‘Heritage’
comes dredging. Nothing much fronts

The canal. Where buildings on a street
stare you out, here it’s you who do the looking,

left in your peace a little way
from the backside of it all, among

blank, patched-up walls with huge
secrets that stink and flare,

piss out coloured suds. Secrets
half guarded, absorbed; secrets forgotten,

left to decay, bursting apart
letting the dead stuff spill out. Sunlight

under bridges stays enclosed,
lattices to and fro. There’s a law

dirt grows out of. […]

What his work certainly does not need is some kind of linear park Disney-fication by being carved into a lock beam, no matter how skilful and artful the carver…

I’d rather look at a lock for what it is, a remarkable, striking piece of industrial architecture, beautiful in it’s seemingly simplicity and function – not being used as a backdrop to some spurious artwork.

The photos today are of Broughton Lock (No. 14) on the Aylesbury Arm. To my eyes – though it’s nothing out of the ordinary, just a typical narrow lock –  the structure and surroundings speaks eloquently for and of itself. No additional words are needed.




Here’s a few links to C&RTs case for the defence:

Locklines Blog
C&RT News

and of course the case for the prosecution can be found across all the canal forums!


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