Linda France
Sunderland City Library & Arts Centre

Poet and collaborator in public art projects, Linda France lives and works as a poet in Northumberland, including a position as Poet in Residence at Mowbray Park in Sunderland. She has three collections from Bloodaxe Books: Red (1992), The Gentleness of the very Tall (1994) and Storyville (1997). She also worked on various collaborations with visual artists, many of them in the field of Public Art in wood, stone, stained glass, ceramic and bronze.

Background

The City of Sunderland has an ongoing commitment to Public Art with particular eperience and expertise with residencies involving close community consultation, having just completed a six-year residency for Art on the Riverside which involved stone carvers, blacksmiths and a poet. For this project, Linda France was selected to create a poem incorporated into the City Library. As part of her commission, based in the City Library and Arts Centre's Local Studies Centre, she ran consultation sessions and workshops with schools and history groups in Sunderland to develop ideas which would inform the content of the work.

 


 

My commission was from the Sunderland City Library and Arts Centre. When an old department store inside the city of Sunderland was being refurbished and adapted to be the new city library and arts centre, someone within the organisation asked me if I would write a poem that would be carved into the handrail which would run along the outer wall - the window wall - of the building; it's three different floors and about 45 foot long, an ash handrail. So essentially many people would not see the whole poem, lots of people would only see one floor of it, one stanza of it, so I had to write something that would work if they saw only one piece of it or if they read it in any order (if they could be bothered to go to the three different floors) and I only had 45 feet per verse. So it doesn't really make an awful lot of sense even though you can maybe visualise it from what I'm saying; the poem's meaning is partly how it's read.

Imagine silver -

how it shone on trees: timber

split, smooth as old seas:

pens flowed with bold words, red as

blood, white as milk - the full moon.

 

Feed your body's brave

alchemy. Keep both your feet

planted in street clay -

and never lose your lightness -

a heart, bright, brittle, as glass.

 

See how stones rise, fall

and rise again, like seeds, or

children - just wanting

sun, rain and good air to grow

into themselves forever.

I ought to also say as part of the gestation of the poem I did some research and consultation with community groups and workshop sessions with them, and my brief was to 'absorb the ethos of Sunderland' (no mean feat) so in the three floors I went for past present and future as a kind of vague theme. There are also references in it to Sunderland's ship building industry and glass industry and other things that are very specific to the place and don't really translate very easily.

- Linda France


Young Poets Network