A strange poem for strange times: a response to Cop26 | Simon Armitage

A strange poem for strange times: a response to Cop26 | Simon Armitage

A strange poem for strange times: a response to Cop26

I was trying to chart the peculiar dream-like state we seem to be in, says the poet laureate

Demonstrators carry placards at a Fridays for Future march during Cop26 in Glasgow.

Last modified on Fri 5 Nov 2021 16.33 EDT

I wanted to react to Cop26 – so many of my friends and colleagues have been emboldened by the conversation it has generated. And strange times sometimes lead to strange poems.

I was trying to chart the peculiar dream-like state we seem to be in, where the rules and natural laws of the old world feel to be in flux, one of those dreams which are full of danger, but not completely beyond the control of the person who sleeps.

The speaker in the poem is watching a world out of kilter, and is full of doubt and distrust, but seems to pluck up enough personal courage to face the future. Let’s call it hope.

Futurama

I crawl out onto the rooftop

above the world’s junkshop,

lean against the warm chimney

and eyeball the city.

The vibe is … let’s say ethereal,

rows of TV aerials

spelling out HEAVEN,

spelling out ARMAGEDDON.

It’s T minus zero

of the Petroleum Era –

all my neighbours

are burning tomorrow’s newspapers

in their back-gardens,

getting their alibis sharpened.

As the hours evaporate

I say to my spirit

I can’t really pilot

this smouldering twilight

over the scars and crevasses,

but I’ll put on my best sunglasses

and steer the cockpit of morning

into the oncoming.

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