on British poetry and riot.This is the first installment of a recurring series titled From The Other Coast. In this series writers from other English speaking countries will be looking at the work of contemporary poets they admire whose work may be unknown to an American audience. When I’m abroad I’m consistently struck by the sheer volume of poetry written in English that never makes it to an American audience. Go to Foyles or any small bookshop in Britain and you’ll find a poetry scene as vibrant and wide-ranging as anything we have going on here. The same can be said of Ireland and Australia and all the other places our intrepid correspondents will explore. California is often described as “the other coast” but really there are so many other coasts out there. We look forward to hearing from all of them and introducing our readers to poets from all over the world.¤— Gabrielle Calvocoressi
“So what’s going on with those London riots, then?” asked the cab driver. I was headed to JFK en route to Heathrow; after eight years living in the U.S., I was returning to the U.K. He told me what he’d heard from the BBC, Fox News, Sky, and I chipped in my two cents, thinking back to when I was last living in North London, sharing what friends still living in the capital had told me.
I’d spent the day before listening to two soundtracks: first, the raised yells, splintered glass, dull thump of heaved bricks as another plate glass window in another high street shop, someone’s livelihood, someone else’s nine-to-five, shattered. The videos on the BBC website, some still live, brought the third night of riots in London, Birmingham, and Manchester into my home in three-by-five inch frames. Buildings the size of traffic circles shot flames 15 feet into the air.
Commentators on newspaper blogs and Facebook reported the latest, sounding their alarm, calling out these yobs, this riffraff, these kids. Some politicians were already blaming social media for stoking the riots. Meanwhile, local residents used Twitter to find one another and begin the clean-up. #whatjusthappened
I watched bands of hooded looters range the streets, jubilant, fired-up; some passersby nervously turnedthe other way, some paused to get out their camera phones. I was here when… What does it mean to be present for these riots, which for me take place in a London that used to be home, in a U.K. where I’m about to, as they say, repatriate? How can any of us make our presence at these riots meaningful, admit our implication in them?