Monday, 4 June 2012

Brompton Cemetery

Holga 120N
Kodak TMAX 400 (exp 02/1994)

Off to Brompton Cemetery, which has a population of over two hundred thousand people and some dogs, all of them dead. It's very popular with filmmakers and photographers, because it's easy to get to, it's quite secluded, and it looks awesome. And it's full of dead people.

Including top late photographer Bob Carlos Clarke, who shot several iconic images at Brompton Cemetery, including this one, which was used on the cover of The Damned's Phantasmagoria, and this one, which wasn't. Clarke loved the place so much he was buried there. With a camera? I don't know. Perhaps he wasn't really dead, and right now he's tunnelling under the ground, photographing the caskets from below.

Here lies Louis Campbell-Johnston, who was fingered by God until he died. I hate old-fashioned Victorian-style poetry. They thought they were masters of the future, those Victorians. But it's impossible to imagine the idea of God's finger touching someone without laughing. God's finger would be massive; it would crush a human being like a bug. Not send him to sleep. I can think of few things less likely to send me to sleep than being touched by God's finger.

I Hate Victorian Poetry
Ashley Pomeroy,
who is neither posh nor rich nor dead (yet)
You rhyme
so awkwardly
with your thine and thou and seem'd
and clutch'd and I find it hard
to take you seriously;
especially given
your aggressive obsession
with breasts;
noble breasts,
labouring breasts,
silent breasts, woolly breasts
etcetera breasts

It rhymes with west and nest
and best and lest,
test, rest, unrest, harvest
exprest, which would explain
but not dull
the pain
of reading your poems
out at school
and having to say
whilst keeping a straight face.

Perhaps you meant it,
really felt it
but sticking to a rigid style
you had to compromise,
to squeeze your beating heart
into a smaller hole;
smooth it, mould it, cut it off
and present it dead and cold
polished and frozen.
A stuffed native,
spear in one hand,
skin stretched over straw,
another dead thing to admire.

The silver arrows you set loose
into the future fell
into the long grass;
bored children were compelled
on pain of pain
to study the ballistics
of your infertile projectiles
their payload
a skeleton, with a screaming skull
his suit torn
his air hose cut.

Long years have passed and
the line between McGonagall
and genius
becomes more fine
"It's all stupid", they will say

"Oh! ill-fated Bridge of the Silv’ry Tay
drew downward: but all else of heaven was pure
the storm fiend did loudly bray, up to the Sun
and may,
from verge to verge,
on the last Sabbath day of 1879
Make thine heart ready with thine eyes: the time
fill’d all the peoples hearts with sorrow,
And made the heavens between their fairy fleeces pale.

Shall I cease here? Is this enough to say
I must now conclude my lay"

Has Brompton Cemetary changed since the hands of Bob Carlos Clarke's camera's lens set foot on its hallow'd ground? Back in the mysterious 1980s? I have no idea. The place is half-overgrown, half-undergrown, and most of the tombstones date from before I was born, but perhaps they had more death then. Long ago it was quite a way from London, but London has grown to surround it, like an airbag. It's apparently popular as a cruising ground for gay men, perhaps because of all the dead people. There's something sexy about dead people; they're so vulnerable, and they no longer have nostril hair.

"Therefore, ye sons of great Britain, come join with me,
and welcome in our noble Queen’s Jubilee;
Because she has been a faithful Queen, ye must confess,
There hasn’t been her equal since the days of Queen Bess."