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Wake Forest
University Press

Wake Forest University Press

Dedicated to Irish Poetry

Wake: Up to Poetry

"The act of poetry is a rebel act."

Poem of the Week: “Poem in Homage to Built Things in Three Dimensions” by Leontia Flynn

poem in homage to built things

This week’s poem is by Leontia Flynn, from her latest volume The Radio. Many of this collection’s works showcase life amid political and social tensions in Northern Ireland. In “Poem in Homage to Built Things in Three Dimensions,” Flynn utilizes careful detail and subtle irony to describe built spaces that were once well-structured but are now neglected and fallen to ruin. 

Poem in Homage to Built Things in Three Dimensions

Sunlight, yellow, on an upright gable
standing by waste-ground, a bright autumn sky
behind it and a foreground of low rubble,
transforms place into geometry—

the nice arrangement of adjoining planes,
almost like a work by Malevich.
Here are the big quotation marks of cranes.
Train tracks. Tramlines. Suddenly a bridge

staked out, foot by foot, over the river
—form as a virtue of necessity:
tensed suspension cable, cantilever,
and canyon. I like these relics of industry. 

I like warehouses too: the heartfelt views
from high loft windows onto square, grey yards;
old balconied apartments in Cadiz
in cobbled streets; marble; misericords

under the seats of medieval churches,
bombed to just the naves—their empty shells
deep and rectangular like lidless boxes;
anywhere weed grows on windowsills

or structure finds its guarded heart exposed—
for we shall give up what’s interior
(a townhouse on our route that has been razed
except two corner walls, frayed wallpaper); 

or mills slumped by canals; the struts and stilts
of factories rusting back to skeletons;
in broken-open cupolas and vaults:
gudgeons, anchors, hoopings, stays and chains; 

for all this we’re pleased to see convert,
to something else, in a bright heaven where
held on the open network or closed circuit
our brilliant concourses are light and air, 

with building blocks and freight of one and nought;
for wagon after wagon of fast goods
—experience itself, perhaps, pure thought
or pure potential … Icons? Wingless birds

flitting with ease across limitless space
—all that is instant and intangible;
transparent bills hung on an interface
transparent too—so on that gable wall

where some forgotten manufacturing sign,
‘Take Courage,’ say (try, even if you don’t)
remains in place, we smile to see sun shine
on crumbling brickwork and on faded paint. 

Leontia Flynn, from The Radio (2018)

Categories: Leontia Flynn, Poem of the WeekTags: , , ,

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