Saturday, December 01, 2012

Field Notes

Autumn Richardson and Richard Skelton have kindly sent me a copy of Field Notes, a compilation of their place-poems. The first section reprints Typography of the Shore which explored connections between the experience of landscape and the making of a book.  Thus, on the ‘ragged shoreline’ of Tentsmuir in Scotland there are ‘spurred stems’ and ‘wind-kerned grasses’ – ‘ragged’ is unjustified type, a ‘spur’ is the serif-like ending to a letterform and ‘kern’ is the action of adjusting spaces between the letters.  The second chapbook in the series, Skin and Heather, used text from Richard’s book on Anglezarke, Landings: ‘climb the small stile / gather the small stream’, ‘moors like scar tissue / skin and heather’. The third, Induviae, was a set of Autumn poems which took its name from the withered leaves which cling to the stem of some plants.  The fourth, Into the Bare Moorland, was written from Ireland about the West Pennine Moors and the final section of the book, The Flowering Rock, is a new collection of poems describing the landscape of the Burren: madder and thrift, eyebright and hart's tongue living in the seams between the shattered rocks; beneath them, arterial passages where the 'wailing notes / of water and wind' create 'hollow songs / of hollow hills.'  A sixth sequence, not included in the Field Notes compilation, is Wolf Notes, which I described in a post here last year.  The Field Notes series is intended to grow into ‘a poetic map of seemingly disparate locations – a distillation of what is unique to each, whilst also charting the underlying connections that may exist between them.’  

The language of landscape is a common preoccupation in these texts, and in the authors' other Corbel Stone Press publications.  The name *AR that they used for Wolf Notes stands not just for Autumn and Richard, but is also 'an archaic place-name element found in river names. It is thought to stem from the Celtic language spoken by ancient Britons, known as Brythonic. The asterisk indicates that it is a hypothetical, reconstructed form, as there is no surviving documentary evidence. It is thought to mean ‘starting up, springing up, setting in motion.’  Landings (reprinted in a new edition earlier this year) includes thirty pages of Lancashire dialect terms.  Among my favourites are: Borrans - rough, craggy places, to which foxes run for safety; Carrwater - red peaty water; Dag - dew on the grass; Fub - long withered grass on old pastures or meadows; Hare-gate - an opening in a hedge, sufficient for the passage of hares; Hippings - stepping-stones in a brook; Leawks - tufts of barren dry grass; Rindle - a small stream; and Stanner - a ridge of stones formed by the sea.  Their newest work, Limnology is 'a sequence of word-lists, text rivers and myth-poems that explore the rich corpus of water words found in English, the dialect of Cumberland, Icelandic, Anglo-Saxon, Gaelic, Irish, Manx, Welsh and Proto-Celtic.'  You can hear an extract from the accompanying CD below, river music 'that has gradually accrued volume and pace over the past six years, swelling to nearly 30 minutes of vivid, and sometimes violent, intensity'.

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