I don’t believe we can save our civilization;
I do, I do believe it.
I don’t want this poem to be beautiful. I do.
I have no skills; I have no hope; I don’t want
any hope. I simply want to sit here, in this
calm. I don’t want the electricity to fail. I
don’t want war to come here.
I DON’T WANT WAR TO COME HERE!
I sat beneath the tree for awhile. There was only
one tree left. Here it is pouring rain. The two
men are in a contest to take over the world.
They will be voted for to make it seem as if this
is what we want. Don’t ever speak to me from ecstasy,
my life is broken. Tell me what style you like though,
I need to scream: do you have that one?"
New urban design aims to influence behaviour and has been criticised as an attempt to exclude poor people.
While not as obvious as the stainless steel “anti-homeless” spikes that appeared outside a London apartment block recently, the benches are part of a recent generation of urban architecture designed to influence public behaviour, known as “hostile architecture”.
Skateboarders are now attempting to subvert the benches in the way they know best. “We’re demonstrating today that you can still skateboard on it,” said Dylan Leadley-Watkins, as he careered to a halt after hurling himself and his board along one of the benches in Covent Garden.
"Whatever the authorities want to do to try to destroy public space, they can’t get rid of everyday people who can come through an area without having to spend money and do something that they enjoy."
The actions of skateboarders and those angered at the spikes – since removed after an online petition surpassed 100,000 signatures and the London mayor, Boris Johnson, joined in the criticism – come at a time when many argue that cities are growing ever colder towards certain groups.
In addition to anti-skateboard devices, with names such as “pig’s ears” and “skate stoppers”, ground-level window ledges are increasingly studded to prevent sitting, slanting seats at bus stops deter loitering and public benches are divided up with armrests to prevent lying down.
To that list, add jagged, uncomfortable paving areas, CCTV cameras with speakers and “anti-teenager” sound deterrents, such as the playing of classical music at stations and so-called Mosquito devices, which emit irritatingly high-pitched sounds that only teenagers can hear.
"A lot of defensible architecture is added on to the street environment at a later stage, but equally with a lot of new developments it’s apparent that questions of ‘who do we want in this space, who do we not want’ are being considered very early in the design stage," says the photographerMarc Vallée, who has documented anti-skateboarding architecture.
Others emphasise the value of environmental design in deterring criminal behaviour, and insist that thinking has long moved on from such crude solutions as stainless steel spikes.
"Spikes are part of an outdated fortress aesthetic not welcome in communities, where there is recognition that urban design needs to be inclusive," says Lorraine Gamman, professor of design at Central St Martins and the director of the institution’s Design Against Crime (DAC) research centre.
"If we wish to use design to reduce antisocial behaviour, then democracy needs to be visible in the crime-prevention design we put on our streets," she says. "I don’t have a problem with the Camden bench – whose aesthetics others have criticised – but I do have a problem that in many locations benches, toilets and dustbins appear to have been removed to reduce anticipated crime, at the expense of the law-abiding majority."
Innovations currently being developed by Central St Martins include “ATM art” – ground markings aimed at increasing the privacy and security of cash machine users.
Others have included projects related to graffiti ("Graffiti Dialogues"), anti-theft “Grippa Clips” for use in bars and cafes and the “Camden bike stand" , which make it easier for cyclists to keep their bicycles upright and lock both wheels and the frame to the stand.
Anger towards some of the blunter types of “defensible architecture” is growing. On Wednesday, activists poured concrete on top of spikes outside a central London branch of Tesco. The company said they were to prevent antisocial behaviour rather than to deter homeless people butagreed on Thursday to remove them.
The architectural historian Iain Borden says the emergence of hostile architecture has its roots in 1990s urban design and public-space management. The emergence, he said, “suggested we are only republic citizens to the degree that we are either working or consuming goods directly.
"So it’s OK, for example, to sit around as long as you are in a cafe or in a designated place where certain restful activities such as drinking a frappucino should take place but not activities like busking, protesting or skateboarding. It’s what some call the ‘mallification’ of public space, where everything becomes like a shopping mall."
Rowland Atkinson, co-director of the Centre for Urban Research at the University of York, suggests the spikes and related architecture are part of a broader pattern of hostility and indifference towards social difference and poverty produced within cities.
"If you were being a bit cynical but also realistic, it is a kind of assault on the poor, a way of trying to displace their distress," he says. "You have various processes coming together, including economic processes that are making people vulnerable in the first place, like the bedroom tax and thresholds on welfare, but the next step seems to be to say: ‘We are not even going to allow you to accommodate yourself in the most desperate way possible.’ "
On the morning of my ruin
I will dress in a vest of bees
as the sun crimps the sky
and light spreads, tight,
intricate as a honeycomb
over the home I’ve chosen.
The bees will cloak me; goldenly
close they’ll wander me,
those I once feared,
those who seal the suit of mail
no other ruin can sting.
Sarah J. Sloat
"In the time it takes to leave a place, a window remains a window.
Streak-blurred and hard. I wear nothing but light as I purl through.
The room—a soundless punch. Each time I close another drawer.
The heart of me trumpets. As in: all my ghosts have caught fevers.
Now feeding from the crown down. The sky steadily droops around.
The city with its smokestacks and silos. All the bricks here are deep.
Red: cut from another. And when I say cleared out, I mean suddenly.
The road became a current my body passed through. Terrible beam.
Glowing as fresh sorrows do. Surely, if I had known the difference.
Between splitting and being split. Yes—if my heart had been a tunnel.”
Megan Peak, “Time Lapse of a Young Woman Leaving”
"The poetry-reader is particular, lonely and always disagrees (with everybody, including himself)."
Magnus William-Olsson, from “Philological Time”
"There is a fragment by Sappho that goes, ‘mnásesthaí tiná phaimi kaì heteron amméôn.' ('Someone, I say, will remember us in the future.') This fragment is among the best texts I know of to illustrate how time is articulated in poetry. If you confront the fragment with the key question of poetical hermeneutics, according to the German philosopher Hans Georg Gadamer - 'Who am I, and who are you?' - a complex schema appears:
I am Sappho, you are a fictive person in the poem.
I am Sappho (the I), you are Sappho (the self).
I am Sappho (the body), you are Sappho (the signature).
I am Sappho, you are the reader of the poem.
I am Sappho, you are the fragment as text.
I am the reader, you are Sappho.
I am the reader, you are another reader.
I am the reader, you are the text.
I am the reader (the I), you are the reader (the self).
I am the text, you are Sappho.
This scema could go on for much longer, of course. But the important thing here is that each revealed relation might be valued and read as a certain quality of time. The fragment, as such, speaks to memory as actualization. And since the act may take place in any moment it is perfectly open in its precise significations of time. All the potential moments signified by this extraordinary fragment work behind and within each other, time appears as a weave of different temporal relations that could be carefully unraveled, but, when taken together, form an incomparable and complex experience and concept of time.”
Magnus William-Olsson, from “Philological Time”
"Time, in the sense that we may experience it through poetry is, thus, always, ‘poly-time’. I say this in contrast to the modernist idea of a ‘pan-time’ that is found, for example, in T.S. Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’ opening. His idea is also rooted in a philological experience, in the act of reading, interpreting, actualizing old texts, but it’s rather more ideological than empirical in its reference to actualization. It reflects a universalism, a longing to rest in wholeness and sameness, in an equal condition, something common to all humans. But I would argue that philological actualization does reveal to us quite the opposite in terms of time. Eliot demands the universal, but history can only be shared when reduced and poetry is, as we have said, potentiality. Time in the poetic sense is, if not difference, at the very least a set of nuances folded up, or better, crumpled like a paper bag in a garbage can. A numberless amount of creases and wrinkles.
Our epoch wants to insist that there is only one time and one world that we are all simultaneously sharing. In fact this is the main, if not the only, idea of equality in global capitalism; but it is, of course, false. There are a multitude of worlds and times that exist, not simultaneously but intermingled, opposing each other or living independently side by side.”
Magnus William-Olsson, from “Philological Time”
"So he’s seen the blizzard that the future
looks like, and gotten lost,
a little. All the same—
he gathers the honeysuckle in his arms,
as for a lover. Cloud of bees,
His chest, blurring bright with it.”
Carl Phillips, from “Capella”
"It’s awful, yet I turn the page, read about yesterday’s shooting: twenty children killed in a classroom. Each day I wake and the past remains barbarous, which is why I always wake
in mourning, which is why I can no longer take in the stories, can no longer listen. A screen flashes before me without sound or context, but I know what it means. It means nothing: an art of pure abstraction, like the works of Kandinsky and Pollock, whose work refused worldly resemblances. We once believed that if we knew ourselves we would perceive our faint, oil-painted glow,
but the more we looked the more we saw that everything was fractured: the odd angles of the body, the absurd faces, their uselessness, their longing to be whole. How else could anyone represent a world that could mechanize war after war like seasons, decorate and parade their murderers? The artist’s eye was not a cavern into which the universe fell, it was only
a reflection. And if we can never be whole, then why not be broken utterly?”
Danielle Cadena Deulen, from “To Philosophize is to Learn How to Die”
Esmerine “Last Waltz”
Why have I not heard this before?!