Maria Isakova-Bennett‘s poem Welcome to Liverpool evokes the Liverpool skyline with a painterly eye and a masterful use of space on the page to guide the ear. When it came to my response, my perspective again, as it was in my own contribution (Canto 1.10), was from the past, and from the west. The voice of my poem reminds us that a possible etymology of Liverpool (though admittedly elver-pool seems perhaps more widely accepted) is the Welsh ‘Llif pwll’ (flooded pool), and that just across the Mersey is Wallasey – Wealas eya – island of the ‘welsh’ (foreigners/strangers). Those of us from ‘The North’ (which, silently, means the north of England) often see ourselves and our place as ignored by the Southern economic and cultural power base of these islands, but in doing so, can forget how easily we nevertheless assume an Anglo-centrism that marginalises those parts of Britain that are not England.
With your back to Wallasey
you’re looking at Llifpwll
with Wales’ eye.
Does that skyline rise to greet you
between yawning sea and sky,
or diminish to a sliver
swallowed up by air and brine?
Those small strokes:
are they cwrwgl boats
ghosting in the ferries’ wake?
Is that stippled wireless tower
a beacon, or a brand?
Are those sacred places sharing out
the Hope they stand along,
or are they smothering our tongue?
Your accent, speaking Saesneg,
is much the same as by the Dee,
but no-one asks the Scouser if they’re Welsh,
and few ask me.
(Now that I live in Wales, perhaps, when I talk about revisiting my roots I should say not that I’m ‘going back North’ but that I’m ‘going back East’?