Recently someone came here looking for ‘ros barber prosopagnosia poem’. Although it wasn’t called that, I know exactly what they were looking for – an unpublished poem I wrote at the end of the last millennium about the embarrassing affliction of face-blindness. I wasn’t aware there was a scientific name for my condition in those days, so it was simply called ‘Who Are You?’ Having renamed it, and to help fellow sufferers locate said thing in the future, I am publishing it here for the first time.
Nowadays I’m pretty open about my ridiculous inability to recognise/remember people, but I did once invite a visitor into my house (who clearly expected me to know who he was), make him a cup of tea, and chat with him for half an hour, before making an excuse that I had to go out (I didn’t) in order to rid myself of this unplaceable person who seemed to know all about me and my family, but wasn’t helping me out with any clues as to his identity. He decided to walk up the road with me (perpetuating my agony), and as we parted ways, said ‘I’ll go and see Kay then’. Huge relief as I made the connection – friend of Kay’s! The guitarist whose gig we had attended a couple of months previously and put up for the night! (Still couldn’t recall his name.) I very much doubt he missed the blossoming of comprehension across my face. He hasn’t been back.
I want to say a little something about the poem ‘How to Leave the World that Worships Should‘ because so many people have been coming here looking for it since it appeared on the English Literature GCSE syllabus last year. I’ll leave the analysis to others because my days of doing other people’s homework are over. Unless you’re going to threaten to flush my head down the toilet, obviously. I will, however, give you a small hint about the title, which I know flummoxes some people. The word ‘should’ should be in italics, or inverted commas. How to leave the world that worships (the word/concept of) ‘should’. Simple enough, once that’s clear, although I know when the poem reproduces itself on websites the italics or quote marks can disappear, making the title utterly nonsensical.
No, no analysis, because I would hope – outside the demands of exams etc – that it doesn’t need one. But I will give a little background.
First off, I should tell you this poem owes its existence to the generous funding of Arts Council England and two lovely people who worked at Canterbury City council nearly a decade ago. So if you like this poem, support the funding of the arts! The two lovely people had seen me speak about my public art commissions at a conference and approached me to write a number of poems about Herne Bay, on the coast of Kent. We ended up agreeing on eight sonnets (which became known as the Seaside Sonnets), and this was the first. The day I wrote it, I knew it was something a little bit special. Since then it has proved to be so: popular in postcard form with people working in cubicles, it has proliferated itself all over the internet. Someone even posted it on the Bolton Wanderers fan forum, at which point I realised it was really going mainstream. Read more
by Ros Barber
He is walking a line; his footsteps mark a square
around the playground. The others forget his name:
a boy that isn’t really anywhere.
Want a boots poem? Generally, I don’t post recently written poems on this website, since publishing them myself makes then ineligible for any other outlet looking for unpublished poems: poetry is what I do for a living, so I figure I shouldn’t be giving too much of it away for free.
However, a few months ago I was contacted by Veerle Swenters of the Shoes or No Shoes Project in Belgium asking for a poetic contribution, and this week, I finally got round to writing it. Since Veerle intends to publish it on the Shoes or No Shoes website, I have no qualms about publishing it here also.
Shoes or No Shoes is an extraordinary purpose built shoe museum in West Flanders (and an architectural marvel in itself). They house 1200 pairs of shoes donated by contemporary artists, 2700 pairs of shoes from around the world, and goodness knows how many pairs of designer shoes too. They also collect cartoons and texts about shoes.
When I told my husband about their request he said these were the boots I should write about. They have been repeatedly re-soled and re-heeled and now have structural damage beyond any cobbler’s skill, but still I can’t quite bring myself to throw them out. Indeed, I still occasionally give in to the temptation to wear them. He was hoping they would want me to ship the boots off to Belgium with the poem, because that seemed the only way I was ever going to part with them. But the museum has limited room for any further shoes, and frankly doesn’t need a skanky pair of boots from yours truly; they just wanted the poem. So the purple holey things are still with me, and now commemorated to boot. Sorry. Here is the poem. Read more