Flaneur: Day 1

Poetry, Uncategorized

FLANEUR is a little project I’ve made for the BBC’s Contains Strong Language: a randomly-generated writing-exploration game that you can take part in. Each day of the festival I’ll be taking a randomised wander around Hull and posting a little poem about it. Head to Mixital to get your own instructions for a surprise, write a response, and share it with us. I’ll be reading and chatting about the responses on BBC social media channels each afternoon.

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A big city street with two single-decker buses stopping to drop off and pick up. The sun’s setting. Half-timbered house in the rear, and a few big green trees to the right.


The growl and wheeze of city buses, tired
little dragons, settling to eat a bit
of flesh, dump a bit of flesh, grump their doors
and curse themselves on. Blinking at bikes,
scowling at silent black chelsea tractors — this city
was theirs once, giving its gold, and now a thousand
motors a minute bother their bones, slowed
to rumbling lurch…
___________________________but hey, here’s a straight
and a clear yellow lane: hear them fly.

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My feet up on the wall outside Hull’s Guildhall, where I finished the wander: green socks and purple trainers.

Wander Notes

My instructions:
1. Proceed gently for eighteen seconds.
2. Watch.
3. Meander gently for a while.
4. Roll away from the sea for a while.
5. Take the fourth right.
6. Find the nearest seat and take a rubbing of it.
7. Roll towards the moon for a while.
8. Wheel east for two miles.
9. Go sideways for three seconds.
10. Walk.
11. Take the fifth right.
12. Stop, find a comfortable spot, and write a poem about what you’ve heard.
13. Head back.

A little city centre walk, starting out at BBC Humberside, taking an eccentric loop through shopping and residential streets, before darting off to the river and finishing off with a dander through the old town. Not being a wheelchair user, I interpreted “roll” with a relaxed, dawdling gait; not being a river, I started out with a loopy wander round the fountain for “meander”. There was an awkward moment as I fumbled on my phone trying to figure out roughly what direction the moon was in, and I had my first cheat, being too hungry to walk for 2 miles and cutting it off early. Cheating is definitely encouragesd. A pleasant way to get familiar with the centre of Hull, its mix of big uncrossable roads, pedestrianised shopping, post-industrial and post-commercial spaces and grand old buildings. I’ll start nearer the edge tomorrow and see if I end up somewhere stranger.


A map of the walk, starting out in Queen’s Gardens, looping through the shopping centre, then up to the river and down though the old town. I wasn’t drunk, I just don’t have a good mouse for drawing smooth lines.

Poem Notes
It’s nerve-wracking, sharing quickly-written poems! I wonder if visual artists who share their sketches feel the same way. Anyway, I’m pleased here with capturing the sound of buses, which I love and have always noticed and couldn’t place until I thought of dragons. When writing quickly, you can generally only get to one or two good things: here, a central image to work through and a set of sounds to play with. I think I’ve overdone it on the sound effects, which need to be reigned in (or, more fun and silly, pushed further), and I don’t think I’ve quite caught the ending yet — too glib, too cheesy! But I’m glad to have met some dragons.