Login   Sign Up 



by James Graham 

Posted: 15 March 2006
Word Count: 187
Summary: This is new (just finished today). It's a bit of a new departure for me; what do you make of it?

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced


...and coming up now, on your left,
the famous Lovers' Rock, the Peña
de los Enamorados
, last refuge - so
the legend has it - of a tragic pair,
young Christian man and Moorish girl
who rather than renounce their love
leapt together to their deaths

and over there, just coming into view,
the legendary Castle Chillon set against
white mountain-tops and softly lapped
by the gentle waves of Lac Leman;
in the dungeon there, young Bonivard
was shackled to a pillar for six years
for his revolt against the Savoyards

soon after lunch we should arrive
at the elephant reserve; but here we see
some people from some nearby villages -
quite a crowd - a few in native dress -
receiving international relief; I hear
some pulses have arrived today
as well as maize and oil. And here

the Taj Mahal, and there the Parthenon;
and on your left the Alcazaba,
and on your right the Roman arch.
It's good to see the sunshine every day,
we've had some storms. We'll take
our lunch-break at Grand Canyon Village;
then, in the afternoon, the elephants...

Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

joanie at 22:35 on 16 March 2006  Report this post
James, I am desperately trying not to visualise the travel rep, but then I wonder if I ought to be doing just that!

Yes! I think that you have portrayed wonderfully the way the wonders of the world are trivialised in the package holiday.

Perhaps I've got this wrong, but ... the last line is excellent!


James Graham at 17:37 on 18 March 2006  Report this post
Hi Joanie, thanks for your positive comment. The wonders of the world pass by on the left or the right, and disconnected bits of history flit by too. But you don't mention the 'tourist attraction' in the third stanza - did it strike you as different from the others, or does it not seem so different?


joanie at 18:32 on 18 March 2006  Report this post
James! Oh, yes, it did strike me! I think it probably reflects on your expertise that I took it all on board as part of the 'experience' offered. I find it difficult to comment on
I hear
some pulses have arrived today
as well as maize and oil.

The world is slowly going mad. It is poignant(?) No - it's difficult to find the words.

Yes, it's very powerful in its understatement.


DJC at 20:16 on 19 March 2006  Report this post
James - not knowing too much about your other work (I'll have a look in your archive) I have to say this poem does work really well for me. I like the simplicity of it, and the sentiment is clear without being forced. I think that the use of some fairly obvious language (such as the waves lapping gently against Chillon) is very effective, as you feel the voice of the narrator coming through. Separating each place by stanzas is also a good way of showing the movement, whilst joining them together by using run on lines. Scansion-wise, how about Lac Leman rather than lake Geneva (what the Swiss French call it). Just one small thought in an otherwise interesting and well-handled piece.

James Graham at 20:26 on 19 March 2006  Report this post
Thanks, Darren. Lac Leman it is. Thanks for the info - I'd heard of Lac Leman and Lake Geneva, but didn't realise they're the same!



With 'lapped' it creates a nice assonance.

DJC at 20:32 on 19 March 2006  Report this post
nice when little coincidences happen like this. Glad to be of help!

NinaLara at 08:46 on 24 March 2006  Report this post
Dear James, I've got a photo by Magma of the Parthenon: a photograph of tour groups being photographed. One group is clearly American, another Japanese. Other groups in the distance are being lectured by their guides. I think your poem is saying similar things about travel and consumerism ... and questioning what an earth it is all about.

I just wonder, if you introduced a little stillness to the poem whether the chaos would be stronger (a thought, a glimpse of the tour guide's face, an old woman selling olives or some other device)?

Esther Frances at 15:56 on 25 March 2006  Report this post
James - I really enjoyed this - it made me smile! I loved the thought of moving off the main excursion to dally a while in the local culture "but here we see some people from some nearby villages - quite a crowd - a few in native dress -
receiving international relief". What a mix - what a hoot - I loved it. I'm new to the site so just flitting around enjoying the literary scenery actually. I love this kind of irony. Esther Frances.

James Graham at 17:54 on 25 March 2006  Report this post
Nina and Esther, many thanks. Nina, the poem should probably be printed beside your photo of the tourists at the Parthenon. That was one of the notions behind this poem - the superficiality of tourism which (at its worst) can be like a sort of shopping, with famous 'wonders of the world' and bits and pieces of history on offer like commodities. I thought that by making the 'excursion' an impossible one - jumping from the Lovers' Rock in Southern Spain to Switzerland to India etc - that might help the satirical effect.

The other idea I had was that the famine relief scene should seem almost a normal part of the sightseeing, just something else to look at - but seeming more and more jarring and out of place the more we think about it. Does it work like that?


NinaLara at 22:21 on 25 March 2006  Report this post
Dear James -

Another visual image springs to mind - of the backdrop at the Live 8 concert. Having worked in Africa (as a teacher rather than an AID worker)I find such representations of 'victimhood' enraging ... especially when juxtaposed against dancing, self-indulgent healthy white rich folk.

You are absolutely right to try and include AID work in the poem; the International AID agencies are just as much a part of the money making machine as everyone else. It is highly unsavoury seeing AID workers drive around in air conditioned, very expensive Land Cruisers when people are on the edge of starvation.

However, I think you need to make this stronger - the elephants are in search of water, maybe, and crops in the nearby village have failed ... which gives us the fantasic opportunity to witness boy scouts in Land Cruisers earning their famine relief badges (just an example!!!)

Tina at 08:40 on 26 March 2006  Report this post
Hi James

Late to this to post but have read it lots of times
I think I am odd but I don't find it funny at all?? It speaks to me of the voracious need to 'devour' life these days - got to go got to see got to have - this is clear in the driving rythmn and pace - like a train on a track relentlessly chugging along.

Reading all the dialogue about aid and famine relief I am not sure. I don't think it fits in your poem at the moment but I do think you should keep it in as a theme. I can see that you have included it as yet another 'sight' but wonder about developing it further.

Also you have started this work with a verse focussing on the past and the sacrifices of others I wonder if you want to develop this theme or echo it at the end - past and present as one??

Just some thoughts

James Graham at 16:13 on 26 March 2006  Report this post
Nina and Tina (sorry about that) thanks for keeping this going.

There seems to be a feeling that the famine relief scene needs to be developed further and made stronger. I meant to present it in such a way that it would just appear as one ‘sight’ among others, apparently just the same as the others. The reader is meant to go through the ‘sights’ one by one - the Lovers’ Rock, the Castle of Chillon, hungry people getting a handout, the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon, the Grand Canyon…hang on? Hungry people getting a handout? What’s that doing there? How can that be a tourist attraction? Well, maybe in a sense it could be, if it’s looked at with a ‘tourist’ mentality. What Nina says about aid agencies (and the Live 8 backdrop) seems to back this up. On the whole I’m not sure about pushing the relief scene any more into the foreground. If we think of another passive way of viewing the world - TV news - everything there passes along not unlike tourist sights: Michael Jackson, earthquake, Charles Kennedy, more Iraqi dead, Madonna, famine in Africa…

There wasn’t meant to be any geographical connection between the ‘sights’, e.g. to suggest that the elephants and villagers are in the same area, but the third stanza does rather read like that. I was hoping for another ‘hang on’ to happen at the same time - hang on, this isn’t a real coach tour, it jumps about too much! That’s pretty obvious, except for the elephants and villagers, who do seem to be neighbouring ‘sights’. Something to think about.


NinaLara at 18:34 on 26 March 2006  Report this post
Hi James,

The purpose of your poem is really clear ... I absolutely understand that this is a shopping trolley of tourist items. Perhaps - because it is a subject close to my heart - I want the poem to be more 'judgemental'!!! But there is no reason it should be.

I lived in a small town in Malawi where the big overland trucks used to stop to pick up provisions. In a country where everyone dressed modestly, seeing the practically nude overlanders get out of the truck was very shocking ..... even more so when they started to flash large amounts of cash around when a good local wage amounted to about £2 a week .... that was how I felt, and I imagine the Malawians felt it far more strongly.

For me, your poem would be so much stronger if I just had a glimpse of the people on the coach ..... even if thay were aliens from Mars.

- I'm sorry to labour this - I just think you could move a good poem to a wonderful poem very easily!

All the best


gard at 21:24 on 26 March 2006  Report this post
Hi james

I read the comments above I don;t think you need to expand on the famine stuff personally becuase I would then read this as different type of poem with a different point.

I felt as if in a 3D cinema reading this poem!

Seriously I liked this is is well constructed. I felt it to be poignant, becuase probably I am somewhat obsessed with the way we westerners are loosing touch with the earth. And this poem put me in this mind i.e as if we observe the tragedies and beauties of our earth as observers without taking part -engaging as they say-. I think this is true and your poem seemed to highlight that to me. Whereas other cultures, good or bad, are totally immersed in the whims of the earth for whatever reason. And that it is true across the ages we have what we consider important and are willing to die for.

Is this your comment in this poem?

James Graham at 09:45 on 28 March 2006  Report this post
Nina, your experiences of living in Malawi have given me a perspective on this poem, and I’m starting to think how to develop it. However I don’t want to be more judgemental, but would rather leave the famine scene understated, as if underplayed by the ‘guide’ who seems to rate it slightly less than the two ‘sights’ that come before it. This leaves it to the reader to think, ‘Isn’t there a judgement to be made here?’

In a previous comment you describe the contrast between ‘victims’ and ‘dancing, self-indulgent healthy white rich folk’ - this is a theme I’ve thought about and am working on. I like the technique of juxtaposition and extreme contrast in a poem (there’s an example in my archive - ‘Two Children’). This contrast between hungry people and wealthy lifestyle is something that’s crying out to be done in another poem.

Your idea about the tourists being aliens has grabbed me too. To find a way to work in a glimpse of them could, apart from anything else, simply make the poem more interesting, but might also add a new perspective. I’ll let that simmer.

Gina, I think there is something of that ‘losing touch with the earth’ in the poem - plus losing touch with our common humanity and with history. There are lots of cultural thinkers and commentators around who say that we’re more in touch with images than with reality, and ‘know’ the world more and more through images instead of direct contact. But I tend to think that’s too pessimistic. How long have we been looking at TV and computer images of the world, compared with all that contact with the real world that we’ve had since prehistory?


NinaLara at 09:49 on 28 March 2006  Report this post
Dear James

Let us know what you caome up with! I'm really looking forward to finding out ....

Brian Aird at 09:58 on 28 March 2006  Report this post
At first it seems ridiculous; a virtual tour of many of the places the well travelled will recognise as if all jumbled up in one trip. But the memory can collpase several trips into one during the re-telling and then there's TV. You sit down to watch a travel program interupted by a channel surf to a news channel. Hence we appear to travel via Spain through Geneva on to Montruex, etc and then in an instant to a famine struck area then on to a game reserve, etc.

We have become international voyeurs...


gard at 17:30 on 28 March 2006  Report this post
Hi james

just read your reply and BrianA's comment.

Yes I agree about the pessimism, and I want to be not pessimistic as you say. But I cannot help think that human memory is short when it comes to history, otherwise there would be no more wars (or perhaps you disagree). Maybe it is a neccessary component of our psyche.

I sometimes see the phrase getting out of your comfort zone. I think it is an interesting "cliche". I mean I think we are voyuers as BA so rightly states. We have become nannified, perhaps it is safer that way. We are scared by make believe horror movies more so than the real journalism that we see. Have we all beome detached in some way and why is that?

I think it is great that you wrote a piece that got us to think about these things (at least me anyhow).

Yours confused (ha ha).


Tina at 17:59 on 28 March 2006  Report this post
Having read everyones posts am I more confused than all of you???

NO not one bit - (She lied) - I think that this poem should focus the vast chasms which separate the West from the Thuird WOrld - and the indifference - and lack of compassion - and lack of respect for all nations. I vividly remember being told beligerantly in an African airport that this was the third world and to get my expectations in line with what was reasonable - (I had asked for clean water)!

I think with your skill James you could encompass all these things in your 'tour' and still bring the reader back to his/her conscience.


James Graham at 20:25 on 29 March 2006  Report this post
This is getting more and more interesting. The poem does seem to have got us thinking. What I’m thinking now is related partly to what Gina says about pessimism and partly to what Tina says about lack of compassion and respect for other peoples. Of course there’s widespread indifference and lack of compassion in people’s attitudes to the third world. But I think history gives us reason to be optimistic - about this, at least. In the long era of the Atlantic slave trade, especially in the earlier part of that (from Columbus to the early eighteenth century) Europeans were practically incapable of seeing Africans as people with their own history and cultures, of equal value with our own, demanding equal respect. If you could travel back in time and put this concept to them, they would have no idea what you were talking about. They would think you were mad. In our time, we still have dinosaurs like the South African racist Eugene Terreblanche, who says we learn from the Bible that blacks are ‘beasts of the field’; but even he knows that in our time, unlike the late medieval/early modern world, there are two sides to the argument. Recognition of the value of other cultures, respect for other peoples, are ideas that exist now. They didn’t then. I’m not saying we can be optimistic about everything - probably not about climate change and threats to the environment - but let’s be optimistic when we can. Respect for other peoples and their cultures has got a foothold now.

As for the poem, I’ve tried to think how to (as Tina says) encompass more about these issues, but these things will have to be stored up for other poems. I can’t find a hook anywhere in this one to attach anything to. But the thing about it is, it did manage to get us thinking! And maybe the trick (one that seems to have worked) is not to say too much, not to lay it on too thick. Just let the fantasy coach trip pass by these poor people, and have the ‘guide’ refer to them blandly - and then let it dawn on the reader how out of place the famine relief scene is. I hope, if it works at all, that it would work in that kind of oblique way.

Brian, I think ‘voyeurs’ is a good way of putting it. The ‘tour’ is rather like watching travel docs on TV. On a real tour places are packaged for us, so that we get them in isolation, out of context, and there isn’t much depth to it. On TV places and events are packaged too, and it’s not even the actual places we’re seeing, but images. Our experience of the world comes through images more than lived experience. All this is like voyeurism in the sense that there’s something private about it. Private not social. Viewing not doing. But I have to be doggedly optimistic about this too - I don’t believe that in the long term people will allow themselves to become ‘voyeurs’ of the world. The poem isn’t saying they have, or that they will - just ‘beware’.


Brian Aird at 08:20 on 30 March 2006  Report this post
Thinking of Int Voyeurism, did anyone tune in last night to see a doc about naked news; Canadian newscasters stipping as they read the news? I couldn't have made that up.....What is says to me is that we are already overbored with having shocking images on our TV - to make it watchable at all some have to have soft porn to go with it. Nakedness is not news, but here's the news; A gang of teenagers some as young as 12 raped ........150 were killed in an explosion last night........and now Sally has a naked truth special report about that famine......

What was that about the opium of the masses?


James Graham at 19:03 on 05 April 2006  Report this post
I'm amazed...Canadian news presenters carrying on like that? All the Canadians I know would be appalled. That won't catch on in Canada - they'll organise a very dignified protest, about twenty people with neatly-written placards outside the TV studios, and that will put a stop to it.

TV news is like the coach tour - a bit of this, a bit of that, no context for anything. I think there's a real numbing or distancing effect in the parade of violent crimes, fatal accidents and natural disasters. On the most 'tabloid' news channels especially, there's little sense of the relative importance of different items - especially the relative unimportance of items about celebrities.

Still (harping on the same theme as before) I'm not too pessimistic. I don't think most people are as susceptible to these things as might be feared. Utterly insensitive to the plight of Iraqis or Sudanese, unable to see that news about them is more serious than news about David Beckham - that's the state of mind TV news would foster in people. If they were stupid. But they're not. (Well, a lot of them aren't.)



...neatly written placards in French as well as English.

Elsie at 20:28 on 09 April 2006  Report this post
Hi James, I wonder whether (somehow) having the 'international food aid' stanza as the last stanza, then breaking for lunch might highlight the dichotomy further, without having to overdo it?

James Graham at 17:05 on 10 April 2006  Report this post
Hi Elsie - No sooner said than done.

soon after lunch we should arrive
at the Brown Bear Wildlife Park; but here
the Taj Mahal, and there the Parthenon;
and on your left the Alcazaba,
and on your right the Roman arch.
It's good to have the sunshine every day,
we've had some storms. And here we see

some people from some nearby villages -
quite a crowd - a few in native dress -
receiving international relief; I hear
some pulses have arrived today
as well as maize and oil. We'll take
our lunch-break at Grand Canyon Village;
then, in the afternoon, the bears...

I also changed elephants to bears to sharpen up the impression of a disjointed, all-over-the-world series of 'sights', and get rid of the slight possibility that any two 'sights' (the villagers and elephants) might be seen as actually in the same area geographically.

What do you think?



Maybe '...but here's/ the Taj Mahal, and there's the Parthenon'.

Elsie at 19:56 on 10 April 2006  Report this post
Yes, that's what I was thinking. In cutting up and pasting myself, to see the options, I noticed you have a couple of extraneous 'some's in 'some people from some nearby villages'.
How about, slight tweak:

soon after lunch we should arrive
at the elephant reserve; And here
the Taj Mahal, and there the Parthenon;
and on your left the Alcazaba,
and on your right the Roman arch.
It's good to see the sunshine every day,
we've had some storms.

here we see people from nearby villages -
quite a crowd - a few in native dress -
receiving international relief; I hear
some pulses have arrived today
as well as maize and oil. We'll take
our lunch-break at Grand Canyon Village;
then, in the afternoon, the bears...

Elsie at 20:02 on 10 April 2006  Report this post
...and of course your change to animals...although it seems fine with the elephants to me...

NinaLara at 21:49 on 10 April 2006  Report this post
Hi James,

I think this has made a huge difference to the flow of the poem. Great!

James Graham at 19:11 on 12 April 2006  Report this post
I think I meant to suggest the 'guide' was being off-hand or even dismissive - some people or other from some villages or other. I'd have one 'some' but maybe two's too many. Um...I think I'll even stick with the two. But your idea for shuffling the content of these two stanzas was an inspiration, and the poem works better now.


Elsie at 20:26 on 12 April 2006  Report this post
Ah - I see what you mean. About the somes.

Felmagre at 07:23 on 17 April 2006  Report this post
Somehow, the matter of fact 'do life' bit comes across, as though by 'looking' one ahs experienced of 'done' Africa, America and the likes.

For in a way tourism is simply about seeing life from the comform zone, so even though the 'guide' pointed out the international aid, it would not truly have registered as part of the reality of life, simply part of the paackage.

Orientalism is still alive and kicking even in our co-called enlightend age.

Found this poem very thought-provoking and an example of 'packaged reality'

Thank you

James Graham at 18:05 on 17 April 2006  Report this post
Thanks, Felicity - your mention of orientalism rang a lot of bells. Edward Said tried to demolish it, but no doubt there are bits left standing. Orientalism and the tourist mentality (consuming 'packaged reality') are probably part of the same thing - the result of an imaginative failure to connect with other people's lives and cultures.


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .