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29 Jun 2022

Alice
Stainer

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New
Moon

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Jul 13th

Firebird

Jun 14th

A 'Golden Shovel' after Fleetwood Mac's

Songbird (as sung by Eva Cassidy)

               Hair severely chignoned, pearls choking your throat and

               always, a white-feathered bodice holding you in. But the


               heats of Brazil are simmering beneath—swans and songbirds

               are all very well, but you are a firebird. Fervid rhythms are


               hard to resist, Tito’s black eyes like cinders singing

               sparks for you alone, Margot, lighting you to dance like


               all of Covent Garden is watching. Pas de deux. Oh they

               don’t like it, though fluting your praises. But you know


               those flights between London and Panama bear the

               flame of your being, uncontained by a ballet score.

Behind the poem...

Imbued with long-held personal reverence for prima ballerina Margot Fonteyn, this poem takes as its more immediate inspiration the display of her effulgent tutu – for her role in Stravinsky’s Firebird – in a glass cabinet at the Royal Opera House. Mysteriously, it called to mind perhaps the best-known line from Christine McVies Songbird, as sung by Eva Cassidy. I pondered the juxtaposition of Fonteyn as a public figure and the passionate, private woman I had found in her autobiography, and decided to use McVie’s lyric in a Golden Shovel. Playing on the double meaning of ‘score’, I used this form to explore the idea of inhabiting a role and the disjunctions of identity found between the intimacy of erotic love and the superficial acclaim of celebrity.