Poetry: Flowers for Kate

by Roddy Lumsden on 15 November 2007

Read Roddy Lumsden's live diary and lyrical verse, composed on set with Nick Knight and Kate Moss for V Magazine.

Read Roddy Lumsden's live diary and lyrical verse, composed on set with Nick Knight and Kate Moss for V Magazine.


By Roddy Lumsden, 18:46 Thu 13 Dec 2007

By now, the shoot is on to its sixth outfit. My latest poem looks back to the first outfit of both days, a piece from Scots designer Christopher Kane’s latest show which incorporated denim, chiffon and snake prints, a part-elegant, part-louche look which was part-inspired by the films Carrie and Crocodile Dundee. A best of early Kinks was playing during the shoot. I’m about to make recordings of my earlier pieces, and hopefully you will hear Kate reading one of them as part of the finished SHOWstudio project.

To the End of the Day

Christopher, we have made a not quite prom scene, 
gathered Kate Moss in your dress, 
the ankle-length, the ruffled one the colour 
of coffee ice cream, the not quite wild side one 
from the dodge side of your lazy hours – 
drained shades of workwear, comfort flicks, bush duds –

and there she struts and leans on a quayside piling, 
strung from chains, in the top-note 
of the wind machine, nod-and-nudge raunch, 
which half-drowns Quaife thumbing his bass 
on ‘Stop Your Sobbing’, ‘Set Me Free’, a dress 
to keep the chiffon mills of Italy thudding for seasons,

to pin the Polaroid wall with a dozen shots, a midnight 
quarrel of attitudes, never in character, 
the sum of distances from Dalston and Addiscombe, 
Motherwell and Muswell Hill, the not quite Christmas 
weather hanging out on the side roads of NW10, 
a dress of froth and strap, the milky tea dress, that dress.


By Roddy Lumsden, 15:15 Thu 13 Dec 2007

Over the past couple of hours I've been gathering ideas and information for a poem more directly about what's happening here today. When I first cast an eye on the racks of clothes yesterday, one strange piece caught my eye, looking like a tan-coloured bedsheet. Once stepped into by Kate, it becomes something wholly different. And when the wind machine throws the ruffles and straps around, it really comes to life. It's a piece from the latest collection by young Scottish designer Christopher Kane. I'm hoping to use it as the centrepiece in a poem.


By Roddy Lumsden, 12:46 Thu 13 Dec 2007

I’ve more or less finished my second poem on the floral theme, quite a rhymey, musical piece. I’m not sure myself yet how metaphorical it is. It might just be about the hardiness of plants, but I doubt it. I’m moving away from the theme today and planning to spend more time among the make-up and clothes racks, writing something more closely related to the fashion shoot.


You who thrived where the horse trod,
where the apple smashed,
who shot up straight where the river sloshed
and rolled, who rose from blood;
who ran your flag
up from the grifting dune
and pulled a pale sky down,
who budded on a sodden sack or log,
took seed and caught along the track’s edge,
who jinked from crags and where walls slip,
who broached the lip
of lintels, burst on finial and ledge;
you who tested luck and unluck,
thrift-fed, driven by wind and water,
frost ticking each petal,
roping root and stem, the black
of black night lost to hope, you
cast the fine day as your fetch
and when it knocked and brought your wish
and you were found, you grew.


By Roddy Lumsden, 17:46 Wed 12 Dec 2007

I've been working on this piece about flowers blooming in unlikely places. It's getting there but I'm going to take time out from it and work on it before I return to the shoot tomorrow. With a jazzily formal piece like this, you can end up getting fussy or repetitive or letting the sounds draw you too much. I need to think about where the piece is moving to, whether it will have resolution or a twist or neither. Am I making a point, or being descriptive, or is the musicality predominant - what I call a relegated narrative. I also need to check that finial means what I think it does and decide whether it's too obscure for the poem! Tomorrow, I'll finish this piece and work on a couple of pieces which are more directly linked to the environment, rather than the theme of the shoot.

FLOWERS FOR KATE: 3. By Roddy Lumsden, 16:43 Wed 12 Dec 2007

I'm plotting a poem which will mirror the set-up of the 35 cameras in the circle by using 35 lines in a circle. I've been trying to find four motto-like phrases which I can place on the four radii - two proclamatory ones and two more lyrical / organic. Then I will work from one towards the next motto, making changes. I'm getting stuck, so I'll let the idea stew and will return to it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I've started another piece with a floral theme. I was reading that the plant camomile takes its name from the apple smell of its leaves, and thought of a possible poem with a 'you, who did this and did that' construction. I jotted down a couple of lines, and a while later added to them, only to notice I had inadvertently set up a rhymed quatrain pattern - making it harder work than necessary! Now I must decide whether to stick with the form or unstitch and be more free. Back to work - but here is the draft of the beginning:

You who grew where the horse trod, 
where the apple smashed, 
who shot up straight where the river sloshed 
and rolled, who rose from blood...

FLOWERS FOR KATE: 2. By Roddy Lumsden, 15:22 Wed 12 Dec 2007

Here's the draft of my sing-song, list poem, a mixture of plant lore, flower names and derivations and assorted images of flowers, both bitter and sweet. I'll probably add some tabs to the layout, but here's the basic text for now.


Open answer. Last of winter. 
Wand of heaven. Scented bower. 
Serpent shifter. Honey twister. 
Mother's tonic. True and sour.

Promise tester. Blade of Easter. 
Fairy cradle. Pharaoh's balm. 
Letter spicer. Cupid's saucer. 
Cossack turret. Talisman.

Hornet trapper. Beetle ladder. 
Summer journey. Silken purse. 
Poison supper. Nodding sleeper. 
Bridal limelight. Star from tears.

Turning colours. Tongues of copper. 
Thief of curses. Liar's rose. 
Lion calmer. Million seller. 
Seeker's token. Sweet year's close.

FLOWERS FOR KATE: 1. By Roddy Lumsden, 13:10 Wed 12 Dec 2007

I've been on the set for a couple of hours now, watching as things are being prepared. I'm not sure how many poems I'm going to produce, but I want to create a variety of pieces, some unusual, others more conventional. Since flowers are central to the shoot, I've brought some books with me which contain information on the lore and language of flowers. I want to start by creating a sing-song list poem which incorporates plant names and their derivations, plant lore and uses, mixed in with more abstract phrases which occur to me as I make my notes. I'm taking care not to make it too 'flowery'.

The 'timeslice' set-up of 36 cameras brings to mind the possibility of a visual poem with thirty six lines in a wheel, with a slightly shifting narrative which might mirror the photographic process. I'm also working on an idea for an 'anaphoric' piece - using a repeated construct - about how and where flowers grow. Another idea at the moment is to try something in Scots - I've been translating French poems into Scots recently, so my poetic brain, such as it is, is still thinking in Scots, and it might work well as Scots is a tougher, more consonantal language which has less of a tendency to sound over-flowery.

Poetry by:


Fashion Film

Fashion Film: Flowers for Kate

15 November 2007
Kate Moss stars in 360° glory in Nick Knight's fashion film, with a poetry soundtrack written by Roddy Lumsden and voiced by the supermodel herself.
Image Gallery

Gallery: Donate for Kate

15 November 2007
See the selection of floral offerings sent in by SHOWstudio viewers in tribute to Kate Moss.

Essay: Safer Steps

09 February 2001
Safer Steps: Paul Hunwick on the life and work of contemporary British poet Andy Stick.
Back to top