Pylons and The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work


As December looms, I thought I would mention a book that pylon fans could add to their Christmas list.  The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain De Botton has a whole chapter (called Transmission Engineering) dedicated to pylons.  The author and a member of the Pylon Appreciation Society follow a pylon line from the nuclear power plant in Dungeness all the way to Canning Town whilst musing on life, work and other subjects.  It is really is an excellent book.  One section particularly caught my eye.  It refers to a book (originally published in Dutch although I can find no reference to it) called The Beauty of Electricity Pylons in the Dutch Landscape by Anne Mieke Backer and Arij de Boode.  They make the case for appreciating the beauty of pylons and apparently note that windmills were as unpopular once as pylons are now.  They were occasionally burnt to the ground and denounced from pulpits before the painters of the Dutch Golden Age started including them in their landscapes thereby contributing to their acceptance.  Perhaps the same will be true for pylons in the future.


Pylon Poetry from Stephen Spender


Thank you to Johnathan Glancey in the Guardian for bringing my attention to poetry about pylons in this article about 'The  gaunt skeletal beauty of pylons'.  Knowing that well known poets like Stephen Spender and Cecil Day-Lewis were inspired by pylons somehow makes this whole blog seem a little less geeky.  In fact, according to this glossary of poetic terms, 'pylon poets' is a term for a 'group of 1930s left wing poets known for their use of industrial imagery'.  See this Guardian article, 'Sacred Indignation' for a lengthy but fascinating discussion of the pylon poets and the similarities between the 1930s and the current economic situation.

The Pylons – Stephen Spender 


The secret of these hills was stone, and cottages 

Of that stone made, 

And crumbling roads 

That turned on sudden hidden villages. 


Now over these small hills, they have built the concrete 

That trails black wire; 

Pylons, those pillars 

Bare like nude giant girls that have no secret. 


The valley with its gilt and evening look 

And the green chestnut 

Of customary root, 

Are mocked dry like the parched bed of a brook. 


But far above and far as sight endures 

Like whips of anger 

With lightning's danger 

There runs the quick perspective of the future. 


This dwarfs our emerald country by its trek 

So tall with prophecy: 

Dreaming of cities 

Where often clouds shall lean their swan-white neck.