Thursday 14 November 2019

Cathy Galvin, "Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva"

Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva is Cathy Galvin’s third sequence of poetry, following Black & Blue (2014) and Rough Translation (2016). Her poetry has appeared in anthologies and journals including Agenda, Visual Verse, Morning Star and the  Leicester magazine, New Walk. She is the recipient of a Hawthornden Fellowship and residency at the Heinrich Boll Cottage, Achill Island. She is currently completing a collection and poetry practice PhD at Goldsmiths, University of London. She is also a journalist and editor, founder of the Sunday Times Short Story Award and of the short story organisation, Word Factory. Her website is

Below, Cathy talks about her new collection, and you can also read a sample from it. 

Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva
By Cathy Galvin 

Walking the Coventry Ring Road With Lady Godiva has been a long, colourful journey. I used to walk under the ring road from home into the city centre; as a teenager to catch buses to and from school, or to sneak into pubs underage or to the Locarno to watch ska and punk bands including The Specials and Sex Pistols; for nights out with first boyfriends or for geeky moments in the library a short walk away from where Philip Larkin also drank as a teenager. 

The road is modernist, brutal and mysterious: it follows the outline of the ruined walls of this former great medieval city; it was built by postwar workers like my parents who had come to live in a city that represented progress, economic stability and an egalitarian education for their children. Research at the city's Herbert Gallery revealed the road had been built the year I was born by George Wimpey And Co for the Coventry Corporation for the grand sum of £73,000. Today, sadly, my walks in the shadow of the ring road often take me to the London Road Cemetery where my parents are buried a short distance from the mass grave for those Coventry residents killed in the Blitz. 

The place is in my soul. This sequence attempts to reach into the spirit of the place and its psycho-geography. The inspiration for this sequence came from Dante's circular walks through purgatory with the poet Virgil: what better companion than the legendary Lady Godiva? She was a thoughtful guide and offered a wisdom relevant to today. 

Luke Thompson, the inspirational editor and founder of the Guillemot Press, who published this poem, writes: "In this sequence Godgifu (Lady Godiva) guides the poet and reader along the titular road, circling the medieval city boundaries through demolition and bomb sites, past graveyards and Epstein’s angel, over rivers and monasteries, in a personal, poetic, spiritual and psychogeographic exploration of the city in which the poet was born."

David Morley writes: "Ring Road is a wonderful realisation of the poetry that is Coventry's past, present, and future: an archaeology and rediscovering of what it means to be a citizen of this fabled city."

Walking the Coventry Ring Road with Lady Godiva has been beautifully illustrated by 
Kristy Campbell, and printed on Mohawk Superfine papers and section sewn, with end papers from Fedrigoni. It is dedicated to the workers of Coventry. You can find more details about the collection here.

The sequence is divided into cantos - here's a flavour of the first: 

Beside me in the Cheylesmore underpass, 
she took my hand and said: Abandon fear
Sky Blues in red Doc Martens threw their cans

and punks in two-tone sang their ghost town near. 
We walked ahead to where an island framed 
walls friars had rescued from a king. 

Looking within to workhouse grounds 
Godgifu bent to lift a plate, broken in the dust, 
that once touched lips made Holy by the flesh 

and blood of Christ. Told me, 
beside a cloister door, to taste the food 
of lives that went before on Pancheon Blue, 

Chinoiserie Porcelain, English Stone, 
Cistercian Underglaze, Staffordshire Slip; 
liturgy of clinker, glassy tap slag, bottles. Brick. 

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