Resubmission for the Ordinary Level in Psychogeography by Jeremy Page

Stepping Back: Resubmission for the Ordinary Level Examination in Psychogeography is a collection of poems written over more than a quarter of a century, which seeks to explore how poetry can give expression to the deeper truths about the connections between poet and place. The author left the town on the south coast of England where he had spent his formative years at the age of eighteen, but has since returned for frequent short visits and longer periods; the poems reflect his relationship with his hometown over the decades in which he ‘grew away from it’. The collection’s final, eponymous poem (Page 2016: 28 – 30) performs a broadly summative function:


 Paper One

 oh yes, and I am stepping ashore



(so many steppings ashore)

back in Blighty

Christmas Eve’s only foot passenger

and my father the welcoming party’s

only guest



for I have suffered the sea to get home

(Dean, 2008)


and one minute

on Remembrance Hill

it is a century ago

and Walter (1897 – 1916), youngest sibling

(and unluckiest),

great uncle I never knew,

is marching to his death

on the killing fields of France,

the next

Julie London is crying a river over me

(despite my hair, those flares)

but all I want, must have,

is a ticket for T Rex

to see Marc Bolan before he dies


and question 2 asks me

to define myself in relation to

this place at no fewer than three

and no more than five points

in my life


so here’s the Dickens theme pub

two bars as two cities/two cities in two bars

where Jonno’s granddad lost the family fortune

in a game of poker

in the London bar (perfidious Albion)

while in the Paris

Fabienne made my every wish

come true

draped her stockings round my neck

long before Julie cried that river

and her shoe

with its impossibly high heel

cast in bronze

became the star of this year’s summer exhibition

(and how that takes me back…)


here is a numbered stone

for every man who marched

down Remembrance Hill to his death

on the Somme

(Walter number 1,958)

and this is where

Sam Beckett stayed

when the time had come to wed,

to experience the suffering of being

in a whole new way


and the fairground lights

take years to reach me

as I look down on them,

and see myself on dodgems

half a life ago


and Walter never did return

any more than I can slip back

forty years to that fairground,

those dodgems,

those brightly burning lights


Paper Two

but we reassemble on the clifftop

a random dozen now

to remember Jonno,

with all the baggage we’ve acquired

(while he took with him no more

than he’d brought, when he went)


and I have less than some

and more than others

nothing that compares to that huge trunk

but encumbered nonetheless


and we do remember –

Jonno, all of us, the fairground lights,

the paths that led

from there to here

from then to now

our yesterdays, and all of our tomorrows.


It opens one Christmas Eve with the poet’s return from overseas as ‘the ferry’s only foot passenger’. Thus begins a psychogeographical ramble through time and space which sees the poet recall his great uncle Walter ‘(1897 – 1916)’ ‘marching to his death/on the killing fields of France’ and remembered by virtue of ‘a numbered stone/for every man who marched/down Remembrance Hill to his death/on the Somme.’ There is frequent ludic interplay between past and present as, for example, when the poet sees the shoe worn by his accomplice in some memorable youthful tryst ‘with its impossibly high heel/cast in bronze/ (…) the star of this year’s summer exhibition.’

The first section – ‘Paper One’ of the resubmission, as it is framed – concludes with the poet reflecting on the impossibility of return as he looks back on fairground lights, which, like distant stars, ‘take years to reach (him)’ as he sees himself ‘on dodgems/half a life ago’.

‘Paper Two’ sees the poet and friends – ‘a random dozen now’ – reassemble on the clifftop to remember ‘Jonno’, whose late grandfather, who ‘lost the family fortune/in a game of poker/in the London bar’, is referenced in ‘Paper One’. Here the poet looks back on the losses and gains of his own life and those of his friends and contemporaries – ‘all the baggage we’ve acquired’ – and engages in an act of collective memory, remembering ‘Jonno, all of us, the fairground lights,/the paths that led/from there to here/from then to now,/our yesterdays, and all of our tomorrows.’ The notion of ‘remembering the future’ is critical to the underlying narrative of the collection, in which place – ‘the Town’ – is the constant against which the triumphs and vicissitudes of a life may be played out. There is an inevitable tension between the poet ‘growing away’ from his hometown and the place becoming ever more itself, echoing the words of Tom Dyckhoff: ‘Folkestone is the new and, indeed, the old Folkestone. I visit often, always agog at how much more like itself it’s become, more Folkestoney, more magnificent.’ (Dyckhoff 2015). Every return is different, he seems to suggest, because with every return we bring something different back with us in the shape of lived experience. Conversely, the Town remains stubbornly itself, its cumulative identities somehow reflecting his own.

The act of compiling the Resubmission was in itself a retrospective psychogeographical journey of exploration through a succession of physical and temporal landmarks, each of which perhaps uncovered a further layer of self. It is only now, in conclusion, that I feel able to acknowledge myself as the frequently unreliable narrator who has negotiated the difficult terrain between fact and fiction, there and here, then and now, and to use the first person pronoun: as if I may now have earned the right to tentatively assume the identity of participant/researcher (or interrogator). Raymond Williams (1980) has remarked that autobiography is neither fictive nor non-fictive, and the various selves I have encountered in revisiting the poems in the Resubmission in an attempt to make meaning from a life in relation to a place have underlined the truth of his observation. Bollnow (1963) has noted that ‘Every location in experienced space has its own significance for human beings’, and this has never seemed truer to me than in my efforts to identify the staging posts on this psychogeographical journey.

No English examination board has ever set an ordinary level examination in Psychogeography and no submission ever preceded this ‘resubmission’, but if the learning outcomes of the non-existent syllabus can be summarised as ‘the composition of a mental map transposed upon the physical layout (co-ordinates) of place’ (Coverley 2010: 16), then the act of compiling the Resubmission, of revisiting place by interrogating the poems that have given expression to the poet’s relationship with it over time, may perhaps be deemed to have met them and may therefore warrant a tentative ‘pass’ – Helena Nelson’s (2017) designation of the ‘reader as examiner … poet as failed student’ notwithstanding.


Bollnow, O (1963) Mensch und Raum, Stuttgart: Kohlhammer

Coverley, M (2010) Psychogeography, Harpenden, Hertfordshire: Oldcastle Books

Dyckhoff, T (2015) ‘Folkestone, Kent: a bit like Detroit, without the Motown’, in The Guardian Weekend 10 January 2015

Nelson, H (2017) ‘Reader as examiner, and poet as failed student’, in Sphinx at (accessed 31 December 2018)

Page, J (2016) Stepping Back: Resubmission for the Ordinary Level Examination in Psychogeography, Lewes, East Sussex: Frogmore Press

Williams, R (1980) ‘The Veto of the Imagination’ in Olney, J (ed) Essays Theoretical and Critical. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press