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Darwin poetry performance transcript

Here are some of the poems that were performed as part of the Evolving Words project, at the Clore Natural History Centre at World Museum on 8 August 2009.

'For Darwin’s Sake' by Sheuly Uddin

For Darwin’s sake,
When will we start noticing the world around us?
The changes that take place.

For Darwin’s sake,
When will we observe?
When will we learn?

For Darwin’s sake,
When will we look at nature?
For the signs.

Thou pity the fool that purges ignorance
Reeks of self righteousness.
For ignorance can not be washed.

For Darwin’s sake,
Evolution is taking its place.

'London Typica Moth' by Ruth Hartnoll

I used to be Typica,
but now I’m Carbonaria.
I sound like what I eat for lunch.
My wings were milky-sand,
bland if you like
with just a spice of freckles.
But I’ve mutated, developed, become:
I am the City Moth.
I blended into the background
took to any tree like it was part of me,
But things change. The 1890's came. Everything turned black.
Soot was the new white.
So I changed, right?
Out with crisp starch and in with sleek grey,
everything seemed to change in one day.
I’ve got a blackberry, a suitcase and shining leather shoes,
I lunch on the finest of bark,
I chat to the squirrel, the owl and the f*****’ lark.
I am the success of my species,
mum writes to all the relatives to boast of my prosperity,
to let them know that in the city
being a moth is the only way to fly.
If it weren't for me changing with the times
we all would of died.

'The Downfall of the Fly' by Sheuly Uddin

I fly lifeless into thin air,
Nothing to breathe for,
Nothing to fly for,
Flying incomplete, nothing is what I live for.

Until my life changes by one glance,
Is this perhaps the opportunity of heated happiness?
Or is this just fatal attraction? Or is this my one chance.

I’m aroused by her sticky texture, her silky skin
The intensity of her sweet odour is so sublime,
I’m bewildered, I’m besotted.

Like a Venus Fly trap she has trapped me a thousand times.
I’m already held hostage,
Imprisoned by her beauty.

I wonder how man became so weak,
So weak that we let the appearance of physical beauty intoxicate us,
Do we not know that this is our weakness?
This is our downfall.

Lacking in nutrients her body glistens,
Overpowering in its glory,
Shining like transparent stars in the darkness of a blazing summer.

I fly with fear, I fly with hope,
One touch by me,
And I Fall deep,
I melt away,
Digested by her bodily functions,
Demolished by her bodily fluids,
Dead into her body.

Perhaps this is how my end was meant to be.
The downfall of the fly.

'Evolving words' by Greg Hurst

The purpose of ‘Evolving Words’
Is to make Mr Darwin’s impact be heard
But should we turn this phrase on its head
And ask about the evolution of language instead?

For language changes from year to year
Descent, with modification, in the words we hear
The tongues of the world can be placed in a tree
The history of language is a phylogeny

The tempo of change has quickened I think
New words seem to arrive before you can blink
No longer reliant on travelling folk
Street words spread through media blokes

And so it goes on, our lexicon drifting
Our language seems forever shifting
It is evolution without the genes
Inheritance through Dawkins’ memes.

'It’s in the Beard' by Lucy McClean

Dear Charles,
the brain needs a beard.
So you;
the best beard in the business,
can stroke while-you-think.
Stare fascinated at, ladybird porn
and take notes.

It’s been two hundred years
since your life.
I cannot grow a beard like yours,
I’ve tried!
These beardless days are dark and dodoless;
filled with electric evolution
and prosthetic limbs.
Chainsaws closing in on forests.
Endangered species list evergreen,
flowering.

Others imitate your genius in vain,
stuff animals – observe their shape.
These copies do not know
it takes half a lifetime for a good beard to grow.

Not being Archimedes
you retained your dignity.
Not being Freud
you retained your sanity.
Not being Descartes
you grew a fine beard
that clung to you while
your faith slipped away.

God’s beard was far too pure to care.
It’s safe to say
you loved your fluffy facial hair.
Choosing to study finches
simply because
They found a nest in your beard,
lived there for years
as you stared down your crooked nose
into their home.

'The Lost Bones Table Monster' by Ruth Hartnoll

No labels; just dusty joints.
An unfinished jigsaw in a plastic, shallow grave;
these bones need a home:

Dodo wing, dinosaur claw, cow’s shin,
parrot’s beak, elephant tusk, rhinoceros spine
and fox’s jaw. These are the Lost Bones.

Smelling of dry earth and moth balls
their brilliant white flicks to grey
when the lights are turned off for the day.
Curator Clem wishes the table a “Good night” as she leaves,
stroking them once each, leaving her fingerprint.
First thing and they’ll be back where they belong;
slotted into hips, pelvis’s and collar bones.

In the dark the last speck of dust settles;
the bones have their new skin.
They shiver into life,
they mutate and melt into each other,
transmogrified they are a superannuated
fossilised monster:

a Dodo’s wing for a head, a rhinoceros’s spine for a trunk,
a parrot’s beak for a bum and a fox’s jaw for a tongue,
the plastic tray swells into a womb,
the table legs sprout arachnid limbs
dust and lint shadow its torso like creeping ivy;
giving the beast hair.

It grows too big;
the creature begins to tear.
Tongue, hip and spine fall to the floor
knocking against each other like chattering teeth;
bones are scattered seeds.
Table legs collapse in on themselves reducing the colossus
to a crooked heap.
The basement room is a mess of vagabond ossein and dust.

The remains read:
The Lost Bones Table - do not touch.

'TAGS' by Dinesh Allirajah

“Until the wind lulls, and the sun
shines [the wingless beetles
of Madeira] lie much concealed.”
Like dads at Christmas, they stay put,
too heavy to fly, too lazy to
bother; the breezes don’t shift them
(so Mr Wollaston observed);
the sea doesn’t destroy them: it’s
survival of the unfit, but
for the few that cannot take flight
from Wollaston’s buckets, nets, jars,
knapsacks, cases, his scrutiny.
For these: full sails, halogen lamps,
A dab of glue, a tiny tag.

Fredric Chevrier had tags so
small, they could make a pricing gun
from Londis squint; he could write - you
couldn’t call it longhand - but in
ink and unabbreviated,
Pterostichus Duvalii.
Tag, matched to beetle; his world
encapsulated in Swiss oak
cabinets, handwritten ledgers:
not a collection meant to sit
in vaults but a crucible for
research, to electrify the
beetle brows at Faraday’s Royal
Institution, and to survive.

Darwin could have attested to
what changes if you cross the seas.
When Chevrier’s battalions
of beetles, mounted, tagged, encased,
arrived in Bootle, stewarded
by Andre Melly, who evolved
from beetling entomologist
to quirky narrative device,
whose great-grandson beetled the blues
eight to the bar in his zoot suit,
and whose great-granddaughter could talk
for Just A Minute, maybe less,
of beetles, though not Chevrier’s,
for whom, no sun, and no wind’s lull;

their cabinets screwed shut - beetles
no more, just glorified oak plinths
in Bootle Town Hall, no longer
a town. Forgotten, they stayed put.
That’s the story to tell, if all
the stories in the world played out
within the breathing space allowed
for every human life there’s been.
But we’re just the beetles with wings
on Madeira, those blown to sea;
our breath amounts to one soft breeze
that lulls the wingless wonders out.
The cabinets were prised open:
five thousand species reappeared.

Fredric Chevrier’s beetles sit,
mounted, tagged and encased but not
entombed. It’s the bug collectors
whose extinction we may observe,
whose genome sequences might be stored
on slides the size of just one tag
which Chevrier lovingly tied,
his minute penmanship face up,
to his thumbnail sized mounted stags.
Curators reproduce them now
on computer screens from DNA,
their details stored, their purpose gone:
Wollaston. McKechnie Jarvis.
Cyril Clarke. Melly. Chevrier.

'Ode to Peter Medawar' by Greg Hurst

Random death
Makes a maintenance contract
Pointless
Live fast die young.

Fate in your hands
Investment will pay
Keep it all tip top
And plan your pension

Random death
When you can’t tell
What tomorrow brings.
Live for today

'The World at sea' by Sheuly Uddin

The world at sea shivers with fever,
Contaminated in its heart,
Sorrowful hopes and sinful desires,
The heart weeps with distress.

The world with its tall buildings overshadows and overlooks nature,
Nature is trapped by the stronger opponent,
Crying and craving for light.

Arrogance laughs with joy,
Humbleness is buried under compost,
Simplicity is lost at sea.

'Next Step in Evolution' by Craig Arnold

“You ever notice how people who believe in Creationism look really unevolved?”
Bill Hicks

When Boa-Constrictor rudely demanded a banana milkshake with his
medium sized Big Mac meal.
When Mole Rat preached his sermon of hatred outside Vatican City as the Pope stood watching Gandhi bark

When Shih-Tzu stumbled into the Oak Tree pub- played some pool, took up smoking and then drunkenly decided to glass the barmaid
And Magpie Moth was wing deep in debt but still managed to purchase
a 52” flat screen television from Currys

When Dugong made her way to the Galapagos Islands and set up an American style bowling alley
And Ape bloodied his knuckles during the F.A Cup Final
And Walrus cried in his shed to the sound of Bailiffs barking

When Penguin was caught on camera outside the 24 hour Co-Op trying to pry a purse from the paws of a pensioner
And Earthworm decided to pour her life savings into a get-rich-quick pyramid scheme

When Finch angered the great British public by secretly spending taxes
to build
a moat around his nest
a moat around his Jaguar
and a moat around his duck pond

When Mockingbird was made redundant but then tried to increase her overdraft at HSBC
And Chimpanzee attempted to assassinate the Prime Minister with a custom made sniper rifle

When Komodo Dragon evolved to breathe fire, turned a Venus fly trap to ash, then flew off to Camelot
And Crocodile sat up all night watching the bonus features on the two-disc special edition of Titanic

While Damselfly met with the Mayor of New York City to negotiate a sponsorship deal for David Beckham
And Badger began training for the London Marathon by eating deep fried Dodo
And Cow had a migraine from watching too much Coronation Street-

Charles Darwin, nose deep in the New Testament, decided to remain silent on the matter, secretly resenting all evolution.

'The Song of Nature' by Siobhan Slater

Up rose the morning sun
Steaming lake
Waters gleam
It reflects on our hearts
Shades of deep-embattled clouds
Leave us restless
Every footstep puts another scene in our dreams
Changing environment from one generation to the next
Trees rustling, twigs crackling
through the scumbled leaves,
fallen branches,
In the dazing heat of midday when the sky is richest blue
The first breath of wind stirs the still air
Leaves fall off the trees and gently touch my face
Wild lake looks at me in a mysterious way
I walk on and on
Awakening birdsong warm my soul
Withered leaves on the bare trees
Beneath the waves, pebbles wander restlessly
The air has a scent of sea wind
I sit while the pleasures roll into my life.
Darwin naturally was born with an interest in the natural world he transformed the way we think about it..