robin vaughan-williams

poems from the road

Poems from the Road is an ongoing project encompassing a podcast, my own poetry, and live literature events.

Poems from the Road: Podcast

Poems from the Road is a poetic journey down Britain's A-roads and motorways, exploring the abstraction, violence, landscapes, and migrations that characterise our experience of the road. Discover a place where 'juggernauts silence arguments', sheep 'split like dropped shopping', and cars 'fall from the sky' or crouch low 'growling at sheep'.

Travelling from Fife to Bridgend, the M25 to the M62, the show brings together the poetry of twenty-six poets, including Luke Wright, Ann Hamblen, Mark Gwynne Jones, River Wolton, James Caruth, Clare Best, and John Arlott, among others. It also features an audio poetry collage and a multi-voice improvisation based on poetic tweets from the A-roads. The road can be a kind of 'alien territory', often ignored in the rush from A to B; this show is about reclaiming it for the imagination.

It will be broadcast on Hive Radio every Thursday in December 2014, 5–6pm as part of the Apples & Snakes Home Cooking series. It will subsequently be available to listen to on SoundCloud.

poetic tweets from the A-roads

As part of the Poems from the Road podcast, I'll be putting together an audio collage of poetic tweets from Britain's A-roads. I'll be gathering tweets over the course of May 2014, and anyone can take part.

To submit your poetic tweet from the road, you can either:
A. tweet it to @PoetryARoads, OR
B. tweet it using the hashtag #poetryAroads.

All tweets submitted this way will be retweeted*, and then in June 2014 I'll be using selected tweets to produce a multi-voice poetry soundscape for the podcast, with the tweets woven together into a collage of our collective experience of the road.

* I may choose not to retweet obscene or otherwise inappropriate content.

What is a poetic tweet from the A-roads?

This could be any short piece of text that you think captures something about the experience of the road. Whether it's night driving, traffic pile-ups, near collisions, road kill, service stations, landscapes, strange encounters, anecdotes, or car parks...that's your decision. It doesn't even have to be from an A-road (car parks and motorways are in), but it must fit into one tweet and have something to do with the road.

Here are a couple of examples:

Live Literature from the Road

In November 2012 we used 'The Road' as the theme for Word of Mouth, Nottingham Writers' Studio's quarterly live literature event. Curated by Megan Taylor, the event featured poetry and stories by Alison Moore, Giselle Leeb, Laura Grevel, Andrew Kells, and Richard Goodson, among others.

My Poems from the Road

It all started around 2010, when I started writing my own poems from the road. I felt like the road was one of the few areas of life in contemporary developed societies where we regularly encounter the experience of extreme danger and the fight-or-flight mechanism. There's something primal about the road that fascinated me, which you can see in the way we sometimes have to fall back on our basic instincts to survive, and in the phenomenon of road rage.

I'd been cycling as my main means of transport for a long time, and as a cyclist in the city you find yourself in a state of hyper alertness, aware of everything around you and ready to react in an instant. You are also in a position of vulnerability, although for me this was often combined with a feeling of invincibility. Having been driving for several years, I found that while in a car you tend to have a sense of false security (especially once you've built up some experience), this is occasionally punctuated by moments of emergency and rapid response, whether brought on by the weather, other road users, tiredness, or unexpected challenges like oil in the road.

The poems I started writing drew on a sense of the road as a no-man's-land, a place of abstraction, an alien, inhospitable environment made by humans but not for humans. Frogger, image by Siobhan Tarr In 2012 I started recording the sounds of the A52 and M1 to accompany the poems, and did several readings using these sounds as a backing track at the Luxury Goods: The Reality of Art festival (London) and at Lee Rosy's and Word of Mouth in Nottingham. When performing these, I felt I had to shout to compete with the roar of the juggernauts. A couple of recordings of this are available on SoundCloud:
Autobahn, 160 kmph at night in the rain;
Two poems from the road, recorded by Andrea Milde on 2 May 2012 at the Courtyard Theatre, Hoxton.

A couple of poems that came out of the sequence—'Frogger' and 'Eating Ghosts'—appeared in the JawSpring exhibition in March 2014, accompanied by artwork produced in response to the poems.