Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Terry Street, 1969

Found this lovely poem in Douglas Dunn’s 1969 collection, Terry Street:


On a squeaking car, they push the usual stuff,
A mattress, bed ends, cups, carpets, chairs,
Four paperback westerns. Two whistling youths
In surplus U.S. Army battle-jackets
Remove their sister’s goods. Her husband
Follows, carrying on his shoulders the son
Whose mischief we are glad to see removed,
And pushing, of all things, a lawnmower.
There is no grass in Terry Street. The worms
Come up cracks in concrete yards in moonlight.
That man, I wish him well. I wish him grass.

Dunn lived at 26 Flixboro Terrace, a cul-de-sac that looked out on to Terry Street in Hull. From his window he heard ‘the chant of children’s games’ and saw drunks returning from parties ‘sounding of empty bottles and old songs’. Terry Street is about ‘the dreams that survive all circumstances’.

Ironically, one of the original justifications for the ‘science’ of geodemographics – that mixture of data sets and hocus-pocus that groups us all into types according to where we live, dividing the population by postcode into categories like ‘Suburban Mock Tudor’, ‘Coronation Street’ and ‘Gentrified Village’– was that junk mail could be more specifically directed, and no one would try selling lawnmowers to people in high rises any more. Or, presumably, to people on Terry Street – thus dispensing with the need for poetry like Dunn’s, and representing a significant efficiency saving.

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