Collected Poem #collectedpoem

In January 2012 I crowdsourced a poem for the launch of an exhibition at the Kaleidoscope Gallery for Kent County Council, on the theme of collecting and collections: Collected Poem (hashtag #collectedpoem on Twitter!).

Here’s a recording of the poem:

And some quotes from people who took part!

An exciting way of making people feel included in the creative process.
I felt like I’d made a real contribution to the poem. I felt like a poet.
Fantastic and interesting project. It’s a great way to create a poem and include many people.
Innovative, creative and a great result!

Collected Poem

My collection started, as most things tend to do
by mistake, by coincidence, or some combination of the two.

They were a most beautiful set
of old boot soles found on the beach
vintage garments, these waifs and strays,
uniquely coloured and with each
subsequent addition to my collection
I daydream of what adventures the items have seen
as each one has a story to tell us about where they had been.

Lost in a loft I find a childhood in boxes:
stamps, bookmarks, toy soldiers, baseball caps
comic books, grudges and goose bones
amusement tokens that tantalise and tease
CND badges and ballet prizes
minor limb injuries, grazed knees and rawrubbed elbows.

I collected – I’m not sure why – sachets of sugar, and of salt
scrap books of memories, a filofax of facts
(presented as evidence that it was always a little sister’s fault)
and books on precious stones, wildlife, dreams, giraffes, the Pet Shop Boys
my handwriting progressing in each school exercise book
and a poem, even, in one:

“I collected giant crows / I kept them in a tree /
I had quite a murder/ Till they went and murdered me”

miles of lush, hilly language to roll sunburned memories down
like marbles – hundreds of them hidden in an old lace
pull-string bag, the smell of which makes a place
feel like home
my wide magpie eyes reflect in snow globes and china dogs
on recollections of kettle drums and frogs
and anything to do with Michael Jackson.

Now I come across a fairly eclectic collection of birds eggs
and discarded heart meds, archiving loss
toiletries smelling of dust and lavender
blank canvases, novelty erasers all wrapped up, unused
table cloths, pencil leads and egg cups
all just waiting for their moment to come.

But happy memories too
a shoebox of silly notes, postcards, clippings and quotes
a bus spotter all his life he collected matchbooks too
thousands from every hotel he stayed in
though he only ever went abroad once
these balloon-strings tied to memories
these fragments of the lost.

Like dipping into the drawers at the Natural History Museum
I discover a phase during my undergraduate years
when I collected smiles, cracked frowns, smart retorts
plates, saucers, cups and bowls from the 1950s
patent leather shoes and delicate knitting patterns
bits of broken boats, boats with broken bits, broken boat bits
and butterflies
all from various car boot sales.

As a collector of specimens from nature
I collected weird boyfriends too:
the one who quoted Family Guy in bed
the one who insisted on being called Alexander the Great
the corset-wearer
the raging BNP member
and of course the one with the snake tongue
no one else likes them, so they sit in a box in a loft.

More of an accidental collection really
these scrapes and mistakes leaving an assortment of scars and small bruises
worries and teeth marks in the night
a consequent metamorphosis into form
landmarks, ugly but necessary
bittersweet reminders of a life
but now-a-days I do not care quite so much
though I’m unsure what I’m saving them for.

I collected friends, mostly from charity shops
and purely for the entertainment value:
a weird and wonderful set of creatures
that made dressing up an everyday event
for photographs, of which I have hundreds
shuffled snapshots in shoeboxes
impressionistic post cards that capture a moment
paused, and disproportionally happy
though many of the depictions may not be scientifically correct.

I have a fine collection of children – three so far –
glorious images of mass production
though this particular collection makes no sense at all to me
their hundreds of toy cars are percussive instruments
many broken and battered and not worth a penny
though they have a certain rhythm and balance
much like collecting.

Labelling and cataloguing the increasingly chaotic ghosts
I’ve collected over the years may seem random and directionless.
The only thing I can say is that, nonetheless,
my collection is unique, and fascinating to behold
along my way I’ve collected anything odd, and old.
Love lingers like perfume, echoes or history
and this group of objects have the power to tell my life story.


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