The Odyssey

The second of a series of "place poems" written for and delivered on the Wonderful Wander as part of the 2020 4 Corners Festival. This one, which is slightly shorter than Homer's epic poem of the same name, was inspired by the Odyssey Complex, and delivered with it at my back facing the iconic Titanic Experience, Titanic Hotel and the Titanic Studios where Game of Thrones was filmed. The Odyssey Complex which opened in 2001 was Northern Ireland's main millennium project, with the name "Odyssey" being the idea of Michael Montgomery, a young 14 year old at the time, to symbolise the 'journey of discovery' that visitors to the science centre inside the complex would experience. The complex as a whole, which also includes a ice/concert stadium, restaurants, cinema and nightclubs, subsequently adopted the name, and the Science Centre became W5. However the journey of the Odyssey arena, and indeed the province as a whole since 2001 has been as protracted and at times potentially disastrous as that of Odysseus in Homer's epic poem. There were a number of financial problems with the complex and in 2015 the energy company SSE purchased it and renamed the stadium the SSE Arena, although it is managed by The Odyssey Trust.
This scheme was to be one of the anchor tenants in the new development on the site of the old shipyards, which quickly became known as the "Titanic Quarter." Cynics like myself have had a lot of laughs at us naming such an ambitious development after a ship that sank, no matter how prestigious and well-known worldwide, especially when, in the wake of the 2008 crash some of those plans ground to a halt. But there is no doubt that the subsequent Titanic Exhibition, which uses the famous ship as a way of telling the complex social story of our city, and the Titanic studios have breathed a certain level of economic optimism into this part of our city and the province as a whole, and the wider developmental vision is slowly gaining some traction.
But the prosperity of a city should not simply be measured economically... Another measure and indeed building block of its wellbeing is grace, hence the title of our festival this year, "Building a City of Grace." We still have some way to go on that journey.

A marquee of hope
marking out a new millennium;
A new era with new allegiances
in the wake of a long war.
An icy field of dreams
on which giants battle
at the gateway of the yard
which once gave birth
to a giant daughter,
only to see her drowned
whilst still a maiden
due to ice and hubris.

Once called Odyssey
prophetically foretelling a long journey
to a peaceful island home
in the wake of a long war;
A journey as long again
as the war was itself;
Battling monocular giants
and losing friends along the way;
Yet curiously finding hope
in that drowned daughter
and the a story of icy war.
Or is that hubris once again?



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