26 Fruits


Poetry in the Ritz

3124510_londonlife_060719_ritzI’d never been to the Ritz before. Last Thursday I was met in the foyer but hardly had a second to take in the chintz and chandeliers before being whisked up a grand staircase. In the first floor suite I was introduced to the man I was there to meet. We sat down on armchairs and settees, and we began talking about his life and work over cups of coffee.

He’d been born into a high-flying Saudi family that had built a business empire, done great public service and was committed to generous philanthropy. Now I’d been brought in to write the words for the beautiful book that Domenic Lippa of Pentagram is designing.

Our two-hour conversation flew by. He’s a deeply reflective man with a quiet, calm aura. The conversation managed to be relaxed and, at times, animated. It was quite unlike a normal ‘briefing’.

It helped that I had taken along a book of modern Arabic poetry in translation. I just had a feeling that it might be useful. As we talked about projects to help vulnerable children and to provide safe water, the moment arrived. I suggested that I would read a poem from the anthology. So I found myself reading poetry to the Sheikh in the Ritz.

The Children

Those many children running in your space,

Have you named them

or shall the gardens do it?

those green children

    climb from the pit

    or do they descend

    from the mountain top?

those very tiny children

….I see now like fish

    of many colors

    in the fishbowl of space.

You are their water.

Qasim Haddad, translated by Sharif Elmusa and Charles Dorin

The people in the room listened intently. When I finished there was a silence but no tension. Smiles followed. “That is wonderful.”

So I came away feeling inspired and less daunted by the prospect of writing a book in a matter of days. On Friday I wrote nearly 5000 words including four poems. There is more to come, so for now I’ll leave my story there.

9 Responses

  1. Neil Baker says:

    Arsenal top of the league. Tea at the Ritz. Does life get any better?

  2. John Simmons says:

    A holiday would be good….

  3. Angus Grundy says:

    Hi, John. I’m in a similar state of daunt, with a 150-page coffee table book required—printed, in the client’s hands—within weeks. Happily, it’s ‘copy light’, but still… Your 5000-word day gives me inspiration. Good luck!

  4. Betti Moser says:

    5000 words including four poems – in a day… Wow! I bow to thee…

  5. bigbrandjohn says:

    Typical Arsenal fan. Top of the league by a country mile and an esteemed audience that he cracks with a turn of a page and all he wants is a holiday. I will put it down to the need to bask in the reality of it all.

  6. An eye-opener. Thanks John, for a breath of fresh Arabian air.

  7. Mandy Orr says:

    sure does it not sound like Darkly Angel heaven, holiday aside.

  8. Faye says:

    You move in exalted circles John!

  9. Michelle says:

    5,000 words, four poems – I’m impressed. It sounds like the best type of creative brief to inspire a Scheherazade, without the threat of losing your head. Keep on telling the stories.

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