Tag Archives: Michael Marks Poetry Award nominees

David Hart’s The Titanic Café closes its doors and hits the rocks

David Hart, born in Aberystwyth, lives in Birmingham, has been (many years ago) a university chaplain, theatre critic and arts administrator, and now lives as a poet, with recent part time teaching posts at Warwick and Birmingham Universities; residencies include psychiatric and general hospitals, Worcester Cathedral and the Aldeburgh Poetry Festival; Birmingham Poet Laureate 1997-98; winner National Poetry Competition 1994, 2nd in 2003. Elected Member of the Welsh Academy. His poems have been widely published in magazines and anthologies and his books and pamphlets include Setting the poem to words, Crag Inspector (a poem of Bardsey Island), and Running Out (all Five Seasons Press), and The Titanic Café closes its door and hits the rocks (Nine Arches Press, 2009).

© David Hart

The Titanic Café closes its doors and hits the rocks
or: Knife, fork and bulldozer ultra modern
retail outlet complex development scenario
with flowers
Nominated for the Michael Marks Poetry Award
Originally probably an office and observation point for the canal company, on the Bristol Road in Selly Oak, Birmingham, the freestanding building that takes centre stage in this sequence was in recent memory the Knife and Fork café (Titanic café, unsinkable), a small business next door, and above them a huge advertising hoarding. After storm damage, the place became derelict and in 2007 was demolished.
The poem and notes are a mix of local history, surreal and playful language, and not a little anger at the proposed ‘development’ of the canalside area as a huge retail complex on what is poisoned ground sprouting something of a revelation – a wonderful crop of wild flowers.
Published by Nine Arches Press as part of their mini-pamphlet series, The Titanic Café closes its doors and hits the rocks includes a selection of colour photographs taken by David Hart on location to accompany the poem. This vivid and dynamic sequence is a fitting swansong to a city’s lost landmarks, the vanishing and shape-shifting human geographies of the heartlands.
Titanic Café is one of the most lightly achieved, unpretentious, mordantly ironic, and relevant contemporary poems I have ever read. It possesses gravitas in spadefuls, yet never fails to laugh at its own futility as a gesture against change – this is the poet as King Canute, both pointing ironically and weeping as the waves sweep in around him, or the bulldozers in this case.”
– Jane Holland
Read the full review here

© David Hart

an extract from
The Titanic Café closes its doors and hits the rocks
(Nine Arches Press, 2009)
The traffic that blooms in the Spring, tra la,
head to tail in the glorious Spring, tra la,
the same every day in the Spring, tra la,
there’ll be no more spring in the Spring, tra la,
                  boopy, boopy.
                  Place borns us
           and suffers and joys us
                   and dies us.
The theatre of THE BEST TEA IN THE UK
              is falling down,
the canal isn’t deep enough for the TITANIC CAFÉ
to sink without trace, there’d be a fine mess.
                  All but ready to collapse
                  of its own volition. Listen,
a child on a longboat along from Bournville asks,
     What’s that?! ‘It’s a
planks and struts and frames by numbers temple
                   to the God of Advertising
where you could buy God’s Own Tea
till the God of Storm
                            took it away almost.’
Birds Food Trefoil – Eggs & Bacon , Ham
& Eggs, Hen & Chickens, Tom Thumb, Lady’s Slipper,
Granny’s Toenails, Fingers & Thumbs, Cuckoo’s Stockings,
Dutchman’s Clogs – a place exquisitely lit
by eyes that know it.
                            Ah to escape all shit,
by day and night
and be disembodied thought.
      Stop at the lights,
      move at the lights.
Everything can go into little bags,
Sainsbury’s old and new can go into a little bag,
what remains of the Battery Co. can go into one,
the new hospital can go into one with the university,
the Worcester & Birmingham canal can be drained
                   into a purse
and the concrete can be folded into a handkerchief,
the Knife & Fork Café as was can go into a black bag,
the whole wild flower waste ground can go into one,
Selly Oak library can go into a little glo-bag,
a little polythene bag will be plenty for the Bristol Road,
another for COMET, B&Q, HOMEBASE and the rest,
another bag for the Dingle,
all of them in a trail of little bags,
a little bag now for the railway station and a Cross City
and a Virgin Pendolino that happens to be crossing,
a little bag for all the people in Selly Oak at 3 a.m.
                   this Easter Sunday,
all the dogs in a little bag, all the cats in another,
all the cars, vans, lorries, motorbikes and buses
                       in a crisp packet,
                         for Christmas.

Purchase The Titanic Café closes its doors and hits the rocks
(Nine Arches Press, 2009) here.
Read more about the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets.

David Hart