Prompted by a (nice) comment from Peter Ebsworth – co-editor of South Bank Poetry magazine – that our London Undercurrents poems had taken up four pages in the latest issue, I started thinking about the constraints of format and length.
Up until now, I’ve been letting the north London Undercurrents women speak for as long as they want, and if they take 40 lines of a poem, or more, then that’s up to them.
But this time, I wanted to see what happened if I gave my next speaker as short a time as possible. After all, she is a Londoner and used to pushing in and jostling to be heard, no matter how small or overlooked she is.
As part of the project, I’ve been researching the Jones Brothers department store, which opened on the Holloway Road in 1899. It was a stylish and much-loved shopping venue until its closure over a hundred years later. I wanted to discover what life could have been like for one of the many ‘shop girls’ and how they enjoyed a new independence through working there, in any number of departments.
So I’ve put the short poem challenge to one of these women, who worked behind the counter soon after the shop opened, before the turn of the last century. She did well, with just nine lines of pure pith.
And now it’s south London’s turn – over to you Hilaire.
(photo of Jones Bros. courtesy of Flickr)