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Jean Atkin is a poet whose work maps memory, work, loss, and place. Her poetry has been commissioned for Radio 4, and featured on ‘Best Scottish Poems’ by the Scottish Poetry Library.
Last year’s National Poetry Day saw her become the first ever Troubadour of the Hills, thanks to Ledbury Poetry Festival, and she featured in March 2019 on BBC Radio 4’s Ramblings programme, ‘Walking a Poem on the Malverns’, presented by Clare Balding.
'Jean Atkin examines the detail of other lives and her own, holding, scrutinising and revealing them in deft, luminous imagery.’
Jean has also been working with Shropshire-based eclectic folk band Whalebone, writing a group of poems to explore the new lore of the county – the stories just within – and just out of – living memory. Whalebone have composed music to weave through the poems.
This Arts Council supported performance project is ‘Understories’.
Jean works as a poet in education and community projects. She is currently poet in residence for Hargate Primary School and is also working on a long-term project, Creative Conversations, funded by Arts Council Celebrating Age. She creates lively, inventive workshops for schools, writers’ groups, hospitals, care homes, libraries and museums.
She provides 'poetry-theatre' as The Spellwright, writing small
spell-poems on parchment, complete with sealing wax, for the public at festivals and events.
She tutors for Arvon’s school groups and is an occasional tutor for The Poetry School. She often works in collaboration to develop projects and residencies with different organisations and partners. www.jeanatkin.com
138 x 216mm
£9.99 + P&P UK
How Time is in Fields
‘How Time is in Fields’ explores the way place contains all times, as well as traces of our recognisable predecessors. There’s a lot of walking in this book, and an alertness to our shared space – with other lives, other creatures, other centuries. The round of the year is divided into the Old English months, reflecting shifts of folklore, season and state of mind.
‘‘How rife they are in the lost places’, writes Jean Atkin of nettles. How rife is Atkin’s sharpened imagination in this intelligent, alert and
brilliantly-wrought collection, in which the lost and invisible places of human history and the natural world are brought to teeming life.’
Ted Hughes Award Winner‘
'Jean Atkin reminds us we are all ‘anchored to the land’s grasp.’ Yet, this is not a collection motivated by tranquillity. ‘A wren like a dead leaf’ conjures up the mystical and transformative qualities of nature, where air smells of ‘dung,’ ‘dead stock’ and ‘gunshot.’' Elisabeth Sennitt Clough
How we rode after haytiming
Soft weft of halters slapped our sides in our dash
to the paddock for the fastest.
Then the calling and the catching,
ponies wiry-lipped at pockets.
We led them out through a gate hinged on string
and slid the slippery shine of bareback
fingers twisted into manes, neck-reined,
fast trotting up the track
for tack, leaned back against the jolting, the joking.
Then in Long Field we were sharp and skinny
on hard old saddles,
greyed our knuckles on flashing shoulders.
Out on the stubble, squinting at sun, we held the yaw
and flare of ponies in their weaving line –
tightened the rising lightness on the bit
– till a shout
hairtriggered them to flight –
and with stomach’s lurch of thrillful risk
and roaring air in underwater ears –
we hurled our ponies
full belt down the light.
What you knew was a lane between drystone walls,
that took the Hardland down to the Mosses.
What you knew was its steepness,
rolling with limestones big as a churn lid.
You could have forgotten the dairy herd lumbering,
full-bagged, weary, up to the farm.
You could have forgotten the stones that pressed
through the thin bendy soles of our wellies.
But do you hear the rush and stumble of their legs,
the press of piebald, the spattering of their shit?
Do you remember the wetness and dark of the lame
cow’s eye as she hobbled up last on the causeway?
We stood on the last of the Roman fort,
and northwards the small fields rose like flags.
From half a mile we couldn’t miss
the yellow bucket by the pheasant pen.
And nothing else blew in the wind, just
the bright wood of Knocknutshell
bent back from the sea,
taken root on the hill.
Then we lay on its tumble
of beechmast petals
hammocked under the speech of trees,
the telling of their loosening leaves.
How time is in fields
Back of Wright’s Yard I climbed the 1st gate
into Spring Well. Cows cudded
& sunned by a veteran Ash.
Grasshoppers chirred in Little Rye Croft.
I turned back from a track
choked with Thistles & Sheep dung.
Little Lane Piece was sprung with Oaks.
I wound my way on a narrow path
through high Hogweed & stinging Nettles.
In Rye Croft Coppy, a Mole turned mortal,
upside to heaven. Above him brown Ringlets
wavered the Clover.
A whispering Ash at Broomy Rye Croft.
The Ragleth was rising from cover. Blue Flies
moved slowly & thickly in shade
old path swayed from tree to tree.
I crossed a dark, July-slow stream.
My way was edged with Burdock & Barley.
A scatter of Feverfew, pearly in the rough.
Wenlock Edge stepping by on my right,
long lip after lip dropping dim in the sun.
The Ragleth ran closer, slope-shouldered
& dun. Manes of Elderflower
flowed in the hedge.
At the 3rd ford, Rabbit bones, a trim of Birds,
a trembling shade like water. I climbed & had
to stop for breath. Dried mud. Hoofprints.
I climbed again. The pigments of Oak-leaves
were breaking down in dust. At the top a gate
where a great coppice-Ash marked an edge.
Now a long, green ride. Ledges of the Mynd
slept in folds at my back. Long
purple Foxgloves tilted among Hazels.
At eye’s rim the Gaer Stone winked
from Hope Bowdler: volcanic watcher,
path marker, ancient fist.
I walked on the lie of the old track from Chelmick,
still tagged with winter-carded wool.
In the squatter village, the hedge-lines grew loose.
A sagging gate, a wheeled henhouse, my path
lost in crops. A Pigeon sloped through a wood.
Downhill, with Barley hissing on my jeans.
The road at last, tyre-tracked by heat.
In the verge, a Mullein leaned, & Meadowsweet.
Gunshot, once. Twice. Smell of dung
& dead stock. Crow. By Roger’s Rough,
a one-eyed cottage under renovation. Everywhere
the local ground makes shift for the duration.
apple thickens on the branch
green skin mouth-water taut
Young vixen perfect in a morning’s
first-light orchard, her legs and belly
slashed with dew, an apple in her jaws.
This acre of uprighted wands, all stepped
with dapple-dance of ladders and
all afternoon, the baskets passed and emptied.
Now stacked off flatbeds, apples mumble
in the buckets, whimper in the press
leak juices, thin and yellow
drip through channels, brew
that rough-skinned smell
and dark taste on the tongue.
Cover design by Ronnie Goodyer from image ‘Croplands’ by Claire Scott www.clairescottsite.wordpress.com.