Friday, 2 December 2011

Three numbers poems

These three poems are old but published.

The most recent is from 1994: a celebration of the 50th anniversary, as I understood it, of the postcode. The information about that anniversary came from that year's edition of the Writers' & artists' yearbook, but it would appear to have been inaccurate. What triggered the poem was the associations of the number. It's a pity that those associations were called up by a piece of false information.

(they were first used in Germany, August 1944)

another number packed tight:
squares, fighting,
flattened streets, flying
bombs, allies in
Paris, crushed uprising
in Warsaw,
and on the wrong side of the war
a way of writing.

'Postcodes' was published in Streetwise 20, October 1995, p.18.

The second poem was written in 1993, and is likewise based on the associations that I find in certain numbers: the numbers this time being not postcodes but telephone area codes. It was published in Cambridge university libraries information bulletin, 34, Easter 1994, with the title 'Two STD codes'. CULIB is always worth a read, though unfortunately its online version doesn't go back that far.

The codes have changed since those days. In the case of Oxford's area code, the change from 0865 to 01865 made little difference to the sense of the poem. But 081, the 1990s code for large tracts of outer London, became first 0181 and then 0208 -- the last being so far from calling up my number associations that I here give both codes as they were in 1993.



The Mock-Turtle (what he doesn't know
ain't knowledge), devastatingly
rude on a golden afternoon;
Alice, by the river and the lawn,
where a few lilies grow,
is out of the swing of the sea.


The Prince and Princess (average
in their extent of failure); burned
cars, streets laid waste; and the old age
of Queen Victoria returned.

If such subjectivity vexes you, let me link to a Wikipedia article that explores the history of the number changes in nerdish factual detail.

The third poem is from 1986. Like the others, it's dated, but not, I hope, beyond use. Does any of it need explanation? The SDP was the Social Democratic Party -- one of the 1980s predecessors to the LibDems. The poem was published in an edition of the St Matthew's church newsletter some time before I began keeping records in 1994.

(for Susan Bury)

First, Colonel James ("James") Sixty-Biff
a candidate
affirming nine as one plus eight.

Next, Wendy Morris (SDP
Alliance) who
must balance two
positions: nine perhaps is three
times three, but in a sense,
not that she's sitting on the fence,
nine as three squared is also true.

Jan Stott (Lab.) sees it as a run
of one plus one plus one plus one
plus one plus one plus one plus one plus one plus one.

And the Red Daisy Ecological
Collective's spokeswheels would prefer to call
nine by another name -- 'one-two' -- because
they use base seven; constantly expose
its role as root of one-four-four, in that
and other bases; promise when the state
is all red daisies, that a better root --
minus one-two -- will grow to shoot and fruit;
and pass the bucket. Deeply people delve:
collective small change frees the Minus Twelve.

No comments:

Post a Comment