Today I’m delighted to host a pantoum poem by Vincent Johnson, a fellow member of Holmfirth Writers Group.
Numbland (pronounced Numland) England is dead, long live Numbland the New where folk now live their virtual lives devolving the sum of all that they knew to vast and inaccessible archives where folk now live their virtual lives consigning their essence, at terrible cost, to vast and inaccessible archives where context and meaning are all but lost consigning their essence at terrible cost with smartphones and tablets now in control so context and meaning are all but lost dumbing their culture, and numbing their souls with smartphones and tablets now in control of all that they think of and all that they do dumbing their culture, and numbing their souls and shrinking from things they knew to be true of all that they think of and all that they do devolving the sum of all that they knew and shrinking from things they knew to be true. England is dead, long live Numbland the New.
Here, Vincent discusses the origin of the poem:
I just listened to Radio 3 play called ‘Folk’ by Nell Leyshon set in 1903 in Somerset, about Cecil Sharpe’s song-collecting, and the provenance of the oral tradition. One of the most moving plays I have ever listened to https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000vwq2.
I was sad to be reminded of the disappearing England of my childhood, crowded with memories of pastures, hedgerows and lanes, and we children innocently playing games in carless streets. There were no computers, no smartphones, and somehow it seemed we were happily more connected to the here and the now…I know that life changes and moves on, and it’s perhaps morbid to hang on to the past, but, without being blind to the many advantages of technology, it feels like we have lost so much and are in danger of losing more.
In response, I wrote this Lament as a Pantoum (a poem where the 2nd and 4th lines of the 1st verse become the 1st and 3rd lines of the second stanza, and finally the first lines are repeated as a conclusion), in (more or less) iambic pentameter. It begins with a proclamation adapted from “The king is dead, long live the king!” usually made following the accession of a new monarch. The epanalepsis (paradoxical repetition) subliminally invokes the spirit of the pantoum.
Vincent is a well-travelled agronomist, and science writer/editor supporting international agricultural research for a food-secure future. Aside from performing and singing with early music ensembles, and getting his fingers dirty in the garden, he nurtures a passion for sharing philosophical perspectives through poetry, but is still searching for his contemporary voice that can provoke and amuse. He lives in the Troubadour cradle, near Montpellier in the Languedoc, South France.