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Designed to Fade by Mary Coghill

Designed to Fade by Mary Coghill ­ ­Designed to Fade is a narrative poem about life in the modern city of London, a journey through a day in London seen through a woman's eyes. The drama begins in the early hours and ends at the same time the following day. Referring to city poetry by other poets and experimenting with poetic form in an attempt to develop a women's poetry of the city, the author has developed an intriguing post-modernist slant to the dramatic unities of time, place and character. As city dweller you will find yourself in here. There are place names, descriptions of commuter journeys and brushes with authority, work and bosses which will evoke an empathy that modern poetry has all too often omitted to express. Designed to Fade is a stylistic tour-de-force, and a most unusual sequence of poems.

Mary Coghill works and studies in London and spends most of her time in the city. ­




ISBN 9781905700059
Published: September 2006
152 x 228 x 9mm
120 Pages
Publisher: Shearsman Books­

This book is available from the Shearsman Books online store and from

Afterword from the book:
Peter Barry writes in his book Contemporary British Poetry and the City (Manchester University Press 2000) that poetry is dominated by 'plenty of country-lane cred, and farm -and-meadow cred' (p4). His explicit differentiation between the city and the countryside unlocked and opened a door on my city life and the role it plays in my creative work. For background I went back to the classical Greek city-state as a source of inspiration and information on the origins of attitudes to women in city life. I have used what I found in Plato's Republic to provide a basis for our own development and use of city space. The Symposium in the poem is developed with specific reference to Plato's Symposium.

The forms of many of the poems have been influenced by ‘city poems’ by other poets. Those whom I have quoted are mentioned in the notes; there are many others who are a background influence. I have combined their forms and some of their words and ideas with elements of autobiography, biography, history, fiction, fact and mythology. My central concern was to explore women's place on the A-Z. The poem puts forward different styles and forms so that we can test out our city voices. I discovered that we are definitely outdoors not indoors, involved not distant. We do not express ourselves merely as geography of the body or topography of the city. We are not just food for the flâneur – passive objects with no function but to entertain the leisured male.

Designed to Fade is a narrative poem. After the introductory poems it becomes a drama that unfolds during the space of one day – beginning in the late evening and ending in the early hours of the following day. The dramatic unities of time and place and character are almost honoured. The unknown reader, yourself and you who live in cities, also provide a similar unity that crosses the boundary between stage and audience. We are all in here: living, loving, working, travelling, sleeping. Designed to Fade explores how, in order to live and have a sense of future in the city, there seems to be a process of constantly replacing the past with now.
Mary Coghill February 2006


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