29 Jun 2022
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 McVie’s 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.