The Tower Block Years


I wrote this about two weeks before Grenfell Tower went up in flames. I therefore hesitated to post it once that tragedy had happened – it made this seem somewhat crass.

This sense of tower blocks as a blight is it would seem a singularly English way of seeing? It is of course a projection of all that middle class guilt that we love – truth is always more complex.

They appeared across the valley

As I emerged from my foundations;

All breeze block, rough edged

Rutted with channels,

Unsheltered from the elements.


They were full of promise,

Of aspiration as they stared

Down the graves where industry

Decayed into wasteland.

They were rising to touch the sky

As if the city raised its arms

In ecstatic communion.


What terror this pointer to the heavens

Brings down – an electrical

Storm of ambition

Flashing dreams of mastery

To the impotent; festering

putrid neglect amongst the poor;

Scorning the simple virtues,

The gentle loving of humility,

The saintly courage of doubt.



And they still stride the brow

Of city hills, hiding

Their stinking incontinence

And rootless isolation

Behind their skyward gaze.


2 thoughts on “The Tower Block Years

    • Thank you John. It was a bit odd that a different sort of terror than had been in my imagination became real just after I wrote this. I was looking at the Brierley Hill flats pictured above when I thought of watching Gleadless flats being built across the valley when I was a boy in Sheffield. So it feels they belong, better or worse to my generation. But what kind of poem might a Russian, French or German write when so many live in tower blocks in their countries?


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