David Briggs

Briggs on Hein

Today’s guest post is from David Briggs, whose excellent first collection, The Method Men, was published by Salt in 2010. This is the first airing of this poem, which has been accepted for an anthology to be published by Bristol University based around public art.

‘This poem is a response to a sculpture by Danish artist Jeppe Hein called 'Follow Me’. It stands in the Fort House Gardens at Bristol University. This is a place I go sometimes in my lunch hour to walk, smoke, think, etc. away from the bustle of work. The gardens themselves were designed by the landscape architect Humphrey Repton (famous for the red books in which he sketched out his clients’ designs); the piece was a commission offered by the University in 2009. Hein says his mirror maze of 76 vertical, polished-steel panels is inspired by the University as a place of self-discovery. In my response, I wanted to take a more sinister line on the idea of self-discovery, especially as the idea of a labyrinth, in Classical Literature anyway, suggests something bestial or sinister lurking at the centre. The mirror effect created by the polished steel has other resonances too, of course.’

Follow Me

after Jeppe Hein


It beckons you down the slope

from the Fort House, a great magnet


drawing you in, past picnicking students

lolled on the bank as on chaises-longue,


past cedar of Lebanon, pond and narcissi

reflected in its polished-steel panels –


the Mirror Maze.


And though the route’s not difficult –

a two-years child could crack it –


the specular planes add another dimension,

and that dimension is you, or me,


whoever we might be, out for a stroll

and a smoke before post-prandial seminars.


Once in, you meander the anterooms

of your own psyche, the reflection


of your reflection of your reflection

echoing out to infinitude,


your sense of self unravelling

like thread from a spilled bobbin;


thread that charts the path back (you hope)

to the reassuring routine


of a Bristol Tuesday in May  

still happening, out there, in Repton’s garden;


to traffic, the coffee-machine, the stack

of unmarked red books on your desk.


But right now you’ve other concerns;

and, what rough beast you hear slouching


from the centre, coming your way –  

hirsute and cloven like a bad Jesus,


or tame as a castrated pup –

depends almost entirely on you.