London, Certainly

Questions and Answers

What inspired “London, Certainly”?

“London, Certainly” (published later in a book as “Banned in Britain”) comes from the mid 1980s, when I was collaborating in “performance poetry” with a group of writers, artists and musicians calling ourselves First Draft. We performed poetry with musical instruments, and also choral ‘spoken-voice’ pieces, often featuring fragments of language chosen for their sounds or rhythms. I performed “London, Certainly” a few times in art galleries and other arty venues, usually as a three-voice chorus with my collaborators Susan McMaster and Andrew McClure.

What poetic techniques did you use in “London, Certainly”?

The performance piece is made up of words and phrases I collected on a visit to London, England—phrases that sounded odd to my North American ears, or that were memorable for other reasons. The traffic directions painted on London streets—LOOK LEFT, LOOK RIGHT—are very handy, especially for tourists, but they are part of a streetscape that includes a bewildering variety of other signs—signs for apartments “to let” or sometimes “to be let”; signs selling the Standard newspaper or XXXX beer. We humans are good at interpreting the signs, paying attention to the essentials and ignoring the excess. But we tax our abilities in our big cities. We the repetitive self-contradictions, I wanted to simulate to confusion, even the absurd over-stimulation, of the city scene, while having fun with language. The poem acts merely as a reminder to the performers, who may repeat each line several, or many time.

Please note that works on the Canadian Literature website may not be the final versions as they appear in the journal, as additional editing may take place between the web and print versions. If you are quoting reviews, articles, and/or poems from the Canadian Literature website, please indicate the date of access.