Iain Sinclair’s Blakean vision of the Olympics

Stratford London E15 April 2012

HACKNEY WRITER Iain Sinclair has a new book out, looking at the poet-artist William Blake’s relationship to London, writes a special correspondent.

Though Sinclair admits in his bestselling Hackney, That Rose-Red Empire to finding no reference to a visit to Hackney by the Romantic poet, in his new volume he sets out to employ Blake’s vision to critical effect on the Olympic development.

Published by the Swedenborg Society, Blake’s London: The Topographic Sublime interweaves Sinclair’s psycho-geographical and literary excursions through London with those of Blake.

The world seen through Sinclair’s eyes is very different from that inhabited by the rest of us. Rather than discussing the daily grind, trips to the pub, games of partypoker and visits to the supermarket, the author looks at the symbolic and mythical city, not to mention what some observers term the “power spots” of ancient London (and Britain).

One power spot he has fastened on is the “old ford” on the Lea marking the divide between Saxon and Viking England. The river was the boundary between the Danelaw of the Norsemen and the Saxon kingdom that was forged by a treaty made by Alfred the Great and the Danish king Guthrum in between 878 and 890.

It was at Old Ford that the two kingdoms met and where the Olympic village is now being completed.

William Blake
Vision: Blake

Blake (1757-1827) comes in here because he was opposed to the enclosure of common land and industrialisation gripping London. Sinclair highlights the parallel concerns with the construction of the site for the 2012 Olympic Games. There on the blue fence that surrounds the site he finds a quote from Blake himself: “Human thought is crush’d beneath the iron hand of Power…”


David Altheer 080412

* See also: Sinclair swans about on the water

* Blake’s London: The Topographic Sublime, based on a talk Sinclair gave at the Swedenborg Society in 2007, is available at £5.95 from the Swedenborg Society bookshop and elsewhere on line. Emmanuel Swedenborg was a Swedish Christian mystic who influenced Blake. This article is sponsored by partypoker.com.

* Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.


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