Friday, 30 October 2009

University of the ghetto

Back again to the East End, London's East End, joining in a tour. Not for the first time. Five Leaves has published a few books on the East End so it was a well beaten path. Nevertheless it was valuable to stand again outside Ikey Solomon's house (Fagin as fictionalised) and to hear again the story of Two Gun Cohen (look him up) and others. The bookish part ends up of course at Whitechapel Gallery - where Isaac Rosenberg wrote his poems, Mark Gertler and David Bomberg borrowed art books, Jacob Bronowski (The Ascent of Man) learned English and Arnold Wesker wept over Wind in the Willows. Those were the days when Whitechapel Library was known as the University of the Ghetto. Now the building is part of the Art Gallery, complete with a hugely popular exhibition of Sophie Calle's work and a hugely empty overpriced restaurant.

The exhibition about the "Whitechapel Boys" has been taken down - shame, it would have been an important permanent exhibition with its signed copies of Rosenberg's work and other fascinating bits and pieces. But the book room at the top of the building gives a nod to the past with part of Bernard Kops' elegiac "Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East" stencilled on a window.

Together with "Shalom Bomb" this is Kops' most popular poem. Some of it is printed below. You can find both in our Bernard Kops' East End, or wait a while as David Paul is publishing a collection of new and old poetry by the man. Here's a picture of Bernard reading the poem outside the library. And here's a bit of the poem

I emerged out of childhood with nowhere to hide

when a door called my name

and pulled me inside.

And being so hungry I fell on the feast.

Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East.

And Rosenberg also came to get out of the cold

to write poems of fire, but he never grew old.

And here I met Chekhov, Tolstoy, Meyerhold.

I entered their words, dark visions of gold.

And Lorca and Shelley said "Come to the feast"

Whitechapel Library, Aldgate East

No comments: