Selfridges & Poets

Although Eyewear predicts a pandemic to break out sometime soon, perhaps in the next fortnight, I have still been going out into the crowded coughing streets of London. Last night, I found myself invited to a VIP-studded event at the “Yellow CafĂ©” at the flagship Selfridges store on Oxford Street, London, to celebrate the start of its 100 year birthday bash. On hand were the Westons (the hosts), Lily Allen, Joan Collins, Boris Johnson, and several famous models – as well as several leading younger poets, such as Emily Berry, Joe Dunthorne, and Allison McVety.

The paparazzi ignored us poets, instead leaping all over Allen and Collins. Fame fame fickle fame. Anyway, what were the poets doing there? Glad you asked. I was a Contributing Editor for Conde Nast’s special magazine, Selfridge’s & Co 100: Art, Life Shopping – and edited the page of poetry. There have been over 200,000 copies of the magazine published, making these poems among the most widely distributed of the 21st century (in print).

The two other poets on the page are Tom Chivers and Jenny Pagdin. Selfridges will also be displaying their poems across the shop in unique ways over May, along with work by other poets I asked to write for the project, such as Camellia Stafford, Melanie Challenger and Samantha Jackson. Readers of Eyewear who detect a socialist slant in my ideology may wonder what I am doing extolling the virtues of shopping, especially on May Day.

Well, I contradict myself, am sometimes giddy and shallow, and actually, have some respect for Mr. Harry Selfridge, a larger-than-life fast-living American showman who arrived in London around the same time as Ezra Pound, and who represented many of the same brash, enthusiastic and innovative directions as that poet. Mr. Selfridge, more girl-crazy than Pound, was famous for saying “always do things better than they were done before” and he did – though ending up broke and in a pauper’s grave (not unlike many artists). Selfridges has always been open to the arts and culture and the way they have embraced the poetry has been impressive. I should add that, as a Dynasty fan, it was a thrill to see the divine Joan.

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