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Poem Of The Week: ‘Flood’ By Blake Morrison
Steve Whitaker, Literary Correspondent
Blake Morrison
Climate change prognoses in recent times have rendered Skipton-born writer Blake Morrison’s interpretively-complex poem more relevant than ever. But the battering of the east coast and south eastern corner of England with rain and wind is no recent phenomenon. Beset by flooding for generations, the east London hinterlands were relieved in 1982 by the building of the Thames Barrier – which was a little too late for the fifty eight people who died on Canvey Island in the 1953 North Sea floods, along with several hundred others in East Anglia and Lincolnshire.

Not that the meaning of ‘Flood’ can be contained within a single definition, any more than the Barrier will contain the massive tidal surges of the future. If the very real risk of a catastrophic deluge is the unspoken elephant in the room, then Morrison’s six finely-honed couplets ebb and flow between ideas of millennialism, biblical apocalypse and the urge for destructive clarity which beset us all.

Flood

We live in the promise of miraculous lakes:
Dagenham, Greenwich, Wapping, the Isle of Dogs.

‘When the siren sounds, those in the blue environs
Should proceed immediately to non-risk zones.’

Spring tides, high winds: for days we can hear
Of nothing else, our eyes bright with disaster,

Our dreams a chronicle of mountaing anarchie,
The river-folke frantick, shippës trappt in trees.

And the dove we sent out, when it came back,
Had the brown glaze of estuaries on its beak.


In our dreams no sandbags hold back the flood:
We would bring the whole world down if we could.


Also by Steve Whitaker...
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Beyond the Hellespont: Great Cities Through Travellers' Eyes
So Many Elsewheres - Home On The Move: Two Poems Go On A Journey
Poem Of The Week: 'Jovo' By Igor Klikovac
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The wonderment of the ‘miraculous’ is mirrored in the pastiche of awe-struck dreamers whose collective minds’ eye conjures a dove-herald betokening the cutting adrift of Noah and the Ark. The Brueghelian tableau is a visitation, in fact, of the visceral certainties of the Old Testament, overlain by a compulsive tone of anticipation which continues to infect our deepest sensibilities.

The sound of the siren which precipitates an onward rush to oblivion might also signal a nuclear Armageddon. Morrison’s prophetic observer, who is as complicit in the poem’s mood as Louis MacNeice’s narrator in ‘Brother Fire’, his poem of the London Blitz, is distinguished only by his possession of insight.

That we do not always seek salvation, that a deep part of our psychology relishes destruction, is the frightening possibility underpinning Morrison’s fine poem. ‘Something in there loved it too’, says the character of Eddie Waters in Trevor Griffiths’ play The Comedians, describing a visit to a German concentration camp just after the war. The poem’s final lines deliver the alarming coda in a resounding full rhyme, as though to underline the depressing presence of schadenfreude in all of us.

Poem Of The Week: ‘Flood’ By Blake Morrison, 10th July 2019, 10:54 AM