A poetry reading by Thomas A. Clark is a rare and special occasion, so we took leave this week and headed up to Grasmere to hear him. Earlier this year Carcanet published a new collection, Yellow & Blue - 'a series of small acts of attention, repeated attempts to step outside the circle of human concern and into a wider responsibility to the natural world.' It begins in an empty landscape, as a scree slope tumbles unregarded into a green lochan, but signs of human activity soon become apparent - in a dripping rope, plastic piled up by a storm, the remnant of a net clinging to a teasel head. And whilst this book, like his earlier collections, suggests ways of being in the world and attending to rocks and water, trees and flowers, light and shadow, it does not neglect the history of the Highlands and Islands, imagining moments in the lives of those whose abandoned homes are only occupied now by the sheep. 'Bending down / by the burn / to pick fresh / water mint / did they pause / for a moment / out of the wind.' As we listened to these poems in the comfortable book-lined reading room of the Jerwood Centre, thunder could be heard gathering outside over the darkening fells. The storm died away, the reading came to an end and we headed off into the night. Yellow & Blue ends in two forms of illumination... 'a lamp of fish oil / with a wick of rushes / gathered by the light / of the full moon.'
Postscript: Before the reading began we saw staff at the Jerwood setting up a new exhibition, 'Wordsworth and Basho: Walking Poets', which will feature new work by contemporary artists. It was a pity to miss this - it starts this weekend and runs until November - but we managed one or two other things in the Lake District that I might mention here. The photograph above is from a walk we did near Coniston Water on the morning of the reading.