Poetry, poles, a prize-winning poem

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When Current Archaeology magazine published an article about our sagiest of societies back in 2015 poet Margaret Seymour found true inspiration. Her poem, reproduced here by kind permission, won first prize at the Sheringham poetry competition. So thanks to our ramblings, a myriad insulators, and the intrinsic beauty that is telegraph poles, these 152 words were selected out of all the thousands that are available and were assembled into the beautiful and unique, prize-lifting order that you see below. Congratulations and special thanks to Margaret. I’ve illustrated the whole occasion with a photo of a line of poles in Donegal. And some gorse. And Slieve Snaght in the background.

Distance Writing

The telegraphpoleappreciationsocietydotorg
knows poetry when it sees it – the epic
march of metre, neat crossbar rhyme-schemes
embellished with ceramic references
to fungi, daleks, Chinese lanterns;
long lilting lines punctuated by swallows.

It’s fond of folklore such as crossbars
are always on the side facing London.
It loves the drama of the telegram,
whistle and crackle of the human voice.
urgent pitter-pat of Morse,
the arcane doings of Openreach.

Its totems are the trunks of trees –
wayside gods inscribed with tribal marks
BT or GPO, plus date of last libation
of creosote. She of the high and shaky
brackets orders DO NOT CLIMB.
He of the yellow skull warns DANGER OF DEATH.

Happy the members of TPAS! For them
a road or railway is a procession
of curiosities, a document, a refuge
where ivy flourishes and kestrels perch,
a photographic pilgrimage where finally
lines of posts are enshrined as posts online.
Margaret Seymour

A line of poles in Inishowen, Co. Donegal, Ireland

Arty poles revisited

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Many thanks to Sophie Jayne Howell for her recent email.  Well March it was actually, but geologically, that’s microseconds.  Anyway, Sophie said some lovely things about our website – that always keeps the delay in replying down to single years – but also that her darling father who once worked for British Telecom servicing the poles rambles fondly about creosote.  That’s nice.  Anyway, Sophie is clearly an appreciator of art as much as she is of, ahem, telegraph poles.  She sent us these three images which frankly, are all gorgeous.

#1 & #2 are Simpsons inspired artworks by Tim Doyle – part of his “Unreal Estate” series.  To quote Sophie here “…both of these have beautiful wiry sticky uppy-ey poles, covered in interesting looking squggly bits and big transmittery things. The poles loom in the twlight and just look lovely.”  The 3rd picture is Richard Rigg’s ‘I forgot what was said when we were outside, stood empty, now without those words I fell back’ Installed in Leeds Art Gallery in 2011, it is two lovely big telegraph poles. In an art gallery, Telegraph poles, Art – you can’t get better than that. 

Tim Doyle's Simpsons inspired artwork Night falls on the SNPP TimDoyle 2011Richard Rigg 2010

More from the Laureate of Lacoste

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The poet laureate of Lacoste, Finn Mac Eoin, has been in touch again. Firstly with another rather champion, laureate-worthy poem about telegraph poles and then a story about the picture you see below. Go on, you tell them Finn…

I was not aware that my affection for pole spotting had always existed, not until discovering that a Telegraph Pole Appreciation Society actually existed. Thank you for bring it to my attention, ( I thought I had latent polarity syndrome )

Poles Apart.

In the forest they grew up
together side by side,
branches touching, all
resisting the Atlantic winds.

But now, they don’t even
want to know each other,
totally individual and the
way they are cropped;

No foliage, not even a
limb for a bird to perch
on, anaemic looking, as
if they were anorexic.

It’s all about the look, bare
legs and those porcelain
earrings that look hideous,
homogenous, no character.

In my day we all knew each
other, helped our neighbors.
Now, they’re too weak to stand,
but for the wires! We’re poles apart.

Some twenty or more years ago after I had purchased this print in Akaroa, South Is. New Zealand I had occasion to go to Auckland where the subject resides. I made a special detour to go and see if the painter poetically licensed the Pole in order to accommodate the Bushell’s Fresco, or did it grow like this naturally?

To my delight, I discovered that the Pole is as is and had not been tampered with on the easel by a Churchill’s Hiccup brush stroke.



A print of an old new zealand corner store from a painting by Bill MacCormick

And so we don’t get into trouble for including the image, <here is a link> so that you can buy a copy of this fine print, off the website we nicked the picture from.

Pole inspired poetry.

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A Lacostian pole to inspire an Irish poet A pole and a tree entwined

Lacoste in the Provence region in the south of France is famous for two things.  One being its once notorious resident, Donatien Alphonse Francois comte de Sade aka the Marquis de Sade who had, shall we say, a peculiar attitude to familial relationships. The second thing Lacoste is famous for is its resident poet laureate – an Irish born poet-gardener by the name of Finnbar Mac Eoin.  Finn, the author of “Two suitcases and a dog” has had a few run-ins himself with the rather parochial villagers.  A quick search of his name using a famous search engine should lead you to the full story.  But if you can’t find it, then here’s a film all about it:


Anyway, poet that he is, Finn found himself inspired by the telegraph pole you see here – wherein the pole and the tree do, genuinely, seem pleased to see one-another.  Finn submitted his poem to the only place he could or indeed should. And he kindly allowed us to pubish it.  The poem is best read in a Co. Cork accent.  Trust me. 

An Irish Pine.

Telegraph pole hugged
by a leafy evergreen
An expression of a mothers
pride at her wee cone who 
was taken away in the storm.

Now, would you be looking
at him, a fine upright lad who
didn’t  forget where he came 
from and well connected
too, by the looks of him.

Telegraph Pole Prints.

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R ichard Kaye likes telegraph poles. As do I.  Unlike me, though, he has an artist’s eye.  And talent. He has produced a series of fine art prints of poles that haunt the skyscape of his locality.  It is the telegraph poles that haunt his locality not his prints.  His pictures are not at all spooky and don’t do any haunting.  At all.  I just want to be clear on that.  He uses a traditional drypoint intaglio technique.  Me, I think they’re stunning and capture the essence of everything about poles that has entranced me since my earliest days.  Here’s what Richard has to say about them :

I have become fascinated by telegraph poles recently as I believe they are really powerful, bold and iconic as images. It’s also interesting that they are all around us and yet rarely seem to get noticed. I have tried to capture them as silhouettes in order to make the black and white prints I create more vivid and compelling.
The whole idea started when I was sitting on my front step one night and looked up at the one outside my house.
As a series I am trying to capture the disparity in the poles and also importantly consider the most striking composition.

A series of prints of telegraph poles by artist Richard Kaye

The prints are for sale via Richard’s own <website> are very reasonably priced and should rightly grace the walls of any telegraph pole connoisseur. Personally I would like to buy the whole set as I feel they belong together.  Alas, times are tough at Telegraph Pole Hall here in Mid-Walesshire and just putting quails in aspic on the table is proving quite the challenge these days.  Proof of this can be found on proletarian fencing-site, eBay – in the category for Body Parts/Offal where my left kidney, with 2 days to go, has just 3 bids against it and is up to a paltry £39.77.  And I forgot to put a reserve on!

Telegraph Poles as art

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Am I mad? asked Claire Pendrous in her recent email.  Presumably her question was rhetorical.  If not, then I would probably need a little more to go on than the text and photos you sent me.  Herewith, both…

a bandolier of screw tops top half of a telegraph pole
Another view of Claire's telegraph pole with lots of insulators

Dear Sir BS,

I have found your fascinating website whilst searching the net to find information about telegraph poles and insulators.

We have in our garden, half of an old telegraph pole which I have saved from a local telecommunications company, …they pole-plant on behalf of BT. The reason I did this is that we need the pole to carry an electrical cable out to out garage, but I wanted to adorn it with a full double crown of white porcelain insulators. After several months of pestering the poor guys down at the local company, I now have the full double crown. The pole will hopefully go up after Christmas and then be fitted out with the insulator set.

In the meantime, I’m also the proud owner of a 4ft top section of a pole with two cross arms, and the top of a pole with an earlier style of metal crown with singe groove insulators and wooden spiked finial.

Anyway, the whole thing has got my interest, hence me coming across your site, which I have found wonderfully informative as a well as interesting.

I have attached some pictures of what I have accumulated so far, which hopefully will be of some interest.



No madder than me, Claire. If that helps! Meanwhile, as usual, click the images to enlarge them.

Dylan Thomas and birthday cake poles.

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Simon Natelson-Carter (#0372) has written in to tell us that he recently spent a week in a lodge suspended 50ft above Dylan Thomas’ Boat House in Laugharne, Pembrokeshire.  He doesn’t say what particular misdemeanour led to his lodge-incarceration but it couldn’t have been that serious as here in Wales suspension above Dylan Thomas’ former retreats is often used as an alternative to open-prison.

Anyway, while he was there he took a look at The Tin Shed Experience – a 1940’s museum which is conveniently nearby.  There his finely-tuned telegraph pole detection gland spotted this telegraph pole–based construction within their grounds.  Once satisfied that no pole cruelty was involved in its erection therewith Simon and the museum owners celebrated said pole’s prior loyal service.  Though I don’t think this particular pole has done much by way of public telegraph work seeing how it seems to have an ’07 mark.


Simon is also the curator of the Tamsin Pastelle museum in Wiltshire.  Some time ago he eluded to further artwork finds by this great telegraph pole artist.  Herewith the first.  Tamsin’s cake and butterfly period (possibly) followed a poorly-judged fungal foray which led to a plate of garlic magic-mushrooms on toast.

She may have ended up with a gippy stomach and an interesting insight, but we mortals have this colourful, vibrant, psilocybin-induced candle and butterfly filled masterpiece to remember her by.

This and other paintings by the same artist can be bought in greetings card form from the US website Card Gnome.

* As with nearly all images on this website – click to enlarge.

Insulator Roost

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Insulators roosting at sunset

Regular readers of these pages may well remember Simon Natelson-Carter (#0372). For he is the curator of the Tamsin Pastelle museum in Wiltshire. It was he who introduced us to the fine telegraphic depiction by Ms Pastelle entitled “Insulators 1” the summer [sic] before last.

He writes again, two-fold.  Firstly to inform us that the museum has acquired two new pieces; one of which is an example of her” butterfly and cupcake poles”, and another, a “moody full-portrait of poles, bringing out their root, stem and plant-like nature”. Our breath is bated, a lot, in anticipation.  Apparently, we may well get clearance to see them by December.  Watch this space.

Meanwhile, he has also sent us the photo (right), captured by his friend, Mike Barratt, also of Wilthsire, showing a rare sighting of the twilight-gyre ceremony performed by bullers and pot-head insulators immediately prior to roosting for the night on the crossarms.  Puts me in mind of the Rainham Marshes at sunset.


Totem Pole

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T elegraph Poles have always been something of a blank canvas for missing cat posters, village hall whist-drive flyers and lonely-lady telephone calling cards. But I’m surprised it’s taken so long to turn up one of these – a proper Telegraph Totem Pole. Openreach engineer John Brunsden tells us that this is his favourite pole.

It’s been like it for years, and still looking good near Stogumber Station on the lovely West Somerset Steam Railway ~ almost as good as what Banksy did with a BT Block and capping a few years back.

The walls at HQ TPAS

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W ell just look what the parcel force man delivered here today…

Painting #15 - from Everything is Electrified by Joe Simpson#15. Mixed Media on Canvas. 100 x 50 cm – by Joe Simpson

This will look splendid on the walls here at Telegraph Pole HQ.  But we didn’t half jangle our nerves getting it.  With telephone bids coming in from around the world, and the Sotheby’s auctioneer about to bang his gavel to an Oligarch collector – we thought we’d missed our chance.  “Four million, three hundred thousand pounds anyone?”  “Going once, to the shifty looking foreigner in the front row…”, “Twice…”. 

Now, I blame the lamb biryani we had at lunchtime, but that was a terrible moment for my dyspepsia to kick in.  And to an excited auctioneer a gurgled stifled belch might conceivably sound like a bid. 

“Gone… Four million, three hundred thousand pounds to the startled looking gentleman over by the toilets. Congratulations, Sir.”

Right, I’ve just been on the internet and found a buyer for my right kidney.  That just leaves £4,299,000 to find! 


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