On Saturday 13th July 2019, a very special train departed from Bristol Temple Meads station. Passengers collected their tickets and headphones from conductors escaped from an earlier era and made their way to Platform 1 (and three quarters, presumably), where poet Elizabeth Parker ushered into the central carriage.
This was the beginning of Track Record, an event harnessing the poetry of The Spoke – Paul Deaton, Elizabeth Parker, Robert Walton and Claire Williamson, simultaneously elevated and grounded by Eyebrow musicians Pete Judge and Paul Widens.
Poetry and trains make perfect sense as a pairing – something about the transient scenery and the rhythm means that they feed into each other as a form of literary symbiosis.
In the half hour journey between Bristol Temple Meads and Severn Beach, we listened to atmospheric recordings of the poets sharing verses inspired by the stations we were passing through, the people and wildlife who pass through, and memories from their own lives. Between or behind the words, Eyebrow’s sonorous trumpet and drums duo painted textures against the poets’ words and wove beneath our skins.
And all the while, the views: city streets giving way to wastelands, fields, industry’s sculptural effigies and the glorious sweep of the tidal Severn.
From Temple Meads to Lawrence Hill, memories of Stapleton Road, a chance encounter at Montpelier, from Redland to Clifton Down, Sea Mills, where we were joined by a Poplar Grey moth, to Shirehampton, where the moth disembarked, and onto Avonmouth’s metallic giants, St Andrew’s Road and the estuary’s feathered ebb and flow,
to Severn Beach.
Favourites for me included the conversational poem read almost as a list of observations by Robert and Elizabeth near the journey’s start, Paul’s Chicaning and Sweeps of Time between Sea Mills and Shirehampton, and Claire’s Migrations as the estuary stretched before us, shining.