Pavement poetry in Front Court
14 November 2017
The poem Wake, written by Katrina Porteous (1979), has been applied to a paving slab in Front Court using ink that is only visible when wet. It is part of the THwomen40 anniversary of the admission of women to Trinity Hall and in collaboration with the Poetry School for their 20th anniversary. To celebrate the anniversary, the Poetry School has been working with selected organisations across the country to rain poetry onto pavements, into quads and other places where they can brighten up a rainy day. The poems are sprayed onto slabs with a special ink that is visible when it rains and the poem will last for 6-8 weeks.
Wake places the particular geographical and temporal point in which the poem is situated – a flagstone in Trinity Hall, today – in the deeper context of biological, geological and planetary time. Referring to the College’s symbol, the crescent moon, and to its origins in canon and civil law, the poem contrasts the ‘puzzle’ (and fragility) of life on Earth with the desolation beyond.
Where are you off to? High walls crooked around you,
Porters, polishers, stirrers of pots, the unseen
Choreography of the household; behind you
Spike-rush, feathery reed,
Dragonfly, mosquito-cloud – Fen
Clay, clunch and oolite, at its root, a faint scent of the sea.
Wake up, says the moon,
Looming crescent over cupola and weather-vane,
Sediments of ancient limestone –
Desolate, implacable – It’s me,
Unmaking, remaking myself in an endless circle,
Suspended above your incomprehensible puzzle
Like judgement, or mercy.
Katrina Porteous (1979)
Katrina Porteous read History at Trinity Hall from 1979-82 and for the last 30 years has lived as a poet in north Northumberland, interpreting the natural and cultural history of that area. She often writes for BBC radio and her work is published by Bloodaxe books. Since 2013 she has ventured into new territory, writing three performance pieces for a planetarium with electronic composer Peter Zinovieff. These have helped extend her thoughts about ‘place’ in the context of cosmology, which brings together the largest and smallest scales of natural order.
The Poetry School
The Poetry School was established in 1997 by three poets around a kitchen table. From these beginnings their artistic values have grown with a core commitment to providing inspiring tuition and opportunities for poets and poetry audiences. They are a registered charity and proud Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation. With established teaching centres throughout England as well as online courses, downloadable activities, and the world’s biggest social network dedicated to poetry – CAMPUS – the Poetry School is unique in its ability to reach and develop aspiring poets wherever they may be, both in the UK and internationally.