Oak & Stone (a spring, 2021) | Mark Goodwin

I would like to share my feelings for stone & wood. Especially the shapes that they can make together, and that in turn can make memories solid … and though such memories will weather, their crisp shapes don’t diminish.


 
To climb is to ‘place’ – very carefully – one’s feet & hands & body. This placing of parts of one’s self so as to fit stone holds or tree branches makes a series of very small but intense places. Places that one visits with touch. The old friend of a rock-hold, or that companion crux made where a certain branch meets a certain trunk. In winter that crux holds a small cold pool of black water one-knuckle-deep, and in summer it is a dusty socket. And that rock-hold, green and treacherous all winter, then suddenly in spring … it gives back to you its edges & friction. Such holds are places in miniature, and because they are miniature they are condensed. So potent.

Wood & stone make good company. I think of parts of Burbage Edge, in the Peak District, where gritstone & oak commune, or Gardom’s Edge where the woods & grit do impressions of each other, affectionately mock each other’s shapes & textures. Places where lichen makes faces at us whilst the upholstery of moss invites us to recline.

One of the very best places I know for becoming involved with the trysts of rock & wood is in Charnwood, Leicestershire. And there is one particular spot, one intricate landscape in miniature, not far from an active monastery called Mount St Bernard Abbey. The focus of this place is Oaks Pinnacle – a small but elegant balancing of one block atop another, accompanied by a young robust oak tree. The rock is ‘weathered Precambrian slate agglomerate’, and is as good as mountain rhyolite. It has that same immediate deep ancient buzz of hardness that so lets a climber feel the intensity of their so very brief moments upon it. The horizontal break below the perched block allows light to pass through the pinnacle. You can see and feel why such a location would be revered as magical. No doubt Druids made their place here in the ancient past. And the monastery nearby, no doubt, was placed in honour of the religious charge already given to the ground hereabouts. Apparently, one should not hang around Oaks Pinnacle at dusk. One should go home, seek shelter, and leave the old gods to haunt themselves. But just before twilight, and whilst the bells of the monastery are tolling, just as the fall of light to the west slants its last orangely through the companion oak’s branches … it is irresistibly beautiful …

The main climb, some 6m in height, is called Central Route. In the guidebook ­– Leicestershire Climbs – this little route is given a grade of Very Severe, not at all hard by modern standards. It is also given three stars, to signal its fine aesthetic qualities. Central Route – such an obvious name, as indeed this VS rises … centrally … bisecting the pinnacle’s algae-coated north face. And although on some evenings I’ve thought of other names for it, such as Oaks Oddity or Druidic Agglomerate, in the end, it being so prosaically and classically named is actually potent. This matter-of-fact label ­– Central Route – is typical of many Victorian climbs, so often named simply for their obvious features … and such no-nonsense, masculine ‘taxonomy’ has been carried on into later decades. And so here, in Leicestershire, this prosaic tag echoes poetically bigger climbs on far greater crags to the north or the west, waiting in the mountains that I have missed so much of late. There is here for me a concentrated whiff of elsewheres that only thickens the thisness of here. There is of course no abseil required to escape this pinnacle’s summit … one’s body is invited to simply step into the branches of the close oak and so descend via wood.

The rub of skin on bark, or the rub of wood against stone. Just as sleep tips us. Just as our bed becomes vertical and we feel     ourselves fall gorge

            ously into the space of s    leep below us …

… the old familiar resistance of stone’s touch and the s    way of pliant branches, the storms that w    ear away parts of our world and also the breezes that gently rattle twigs … they come along with us into our sleep … and we dream of them … and our dreams c    reak …

So many years ago, as a very young man, I dreamt, rather vividly, and then wrote a poem. I dug it out the other day, reminded of it by Nikki’s photo at the start of this piece – an image of such a long conversation of wood with stone. I never got round to publishing that poem … it feels as if it has been waiting. The poem is dedicated to a close friend – Jonny Mitchell – who back in the 80s was one of Leicestershire’s climbing activists. Jonny still climbs every now and again on Peak District gritstone. He was closely involved with the climbing development of The Brand – a quaint & pretty old slate quarry in Swithland, actually situated in the expansive garden of the one-time Lord Lieutenant of Leicestershire. In 1988 Jonny put up, directly above the old quarry’s pool, a three-star climb, which he named Splash, and graded as Extreme 3. A tryst between climber, slate & water! When I climbed with Jonny, in the 90s, he was also a tree-surgeon, and so he was as much at home in trees as he was on rock. On a number of occasions we went tree climbing in Leicestershire. And sometimes we would trespass across Charnwood’s precious properties in search of, what climbers call, Crag X. A Crag X is a crag of the imagination ­– that as-yet unfound gem that has somehow been missed by generations of climbers. In all climbing areas, and throughout time, there are always rumours of actual Crag Xs … with actual projections of solid climbs. I’m daft enough to still look out for such crags in Charnwood … and often in woodland I’m fooled … the lines of trunks & the crack-like squiggles of branches morph into the beckoning form of some fantastic buttress …

Anyway, these are memories, and are as much defined by crisp lines as what has been worn away. Here is that poem … made in another world in another time:
 

Flexible Stone

for Jonny

We looked
for climbs in woodland, found

the curved puzzling limbs of beech –
smooth skinned and ladder-easy but
punctuated with sudden cruxes. We greened

our hands on algae’d willow, balanced
on bendy branches, risked
willow-wood’s swift crack. We read

many meanings of leaves, named
all the names we knew
we’d climbed amongst. We jumped

from one woodpecker-pocket to the next. We clung
to the blank challenges of trunks. Thrutched.

Weeks later I dreamed we’d scoured
an expanse of sloping woodland
tree-to-tree to identify

criss-cross promises of branches.

Then suddenly we stumbled on it – a new crag ! It stretched
a mile or more along a scarp amongst
a crowd of guardian trees.

We whooped. We ran
to touch its rock. We found
the whole crag

was carved hard woods.

 
Notes

The word crux for a climber denotes the most difficult part of a climb. However, the crux formed by a branch meeting a trunk more often provides an easy hold, and so, in the poem the use of the word crux is ambiguous. Trees can, however, and often do, have difficult moves, or cruxes in the climbing sense.

Here is the route description for Central Route, from Leicestershire Climbs:

Central Route 6m VS 4c ***

A superb route going direct up the middle of the front face. Sharp holds lead you to a horizontal fist-jamming break. You can see daylight through this break. Finish by laying away up the sharp crack. [The first ascensionists are not given in the guidebook.]

And here is the description of Jonny’s climb, in The Brand:

Splash 21 m E3 5c ***

The climb takes the discontinuous flake crack in the wall to the left of Rhythm Collision from a nut belay 1.5m to the left (Rocks 3 and 4) at water level. Move diagonally right and climb the flake crack (in situ wire). J. Mitchell and E. Jones, June 1988.

Pages from the original 1993 Leicestershire Climbs guidebook can be found via the following links. The guidebook, especially regarding The Brand, includes interesting general historical information.

Oaks Pinnacle: http://www.leicesterclimbs.f9.co.uk/OakspinnacleI.htm

The Brand: http://www.leicesterclimbs.f9.co.uk/ThebrandI.htm

Photos, of Oaks Pinnacle & miniature environs, by Nikki Clayton.

 


Mark Goodwin
‘s publications include
All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), acclaimed by Andy Clarke in Climber magazine as ‘An exhilarating journey through the glorious variety of UK rock, including mountain rhyolite, eastern grit, Llanberis slate… a fascinating and rewarding collection that amply repays backtracking and re-reading.’ Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.99 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5.25 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £8.25 postage)

 


Gather, East Leicestershire, February 2021 | Mark Goodwin & Nikki Clayton


 
can we choose

to climb through
a snowflake’s

lattice
or go

the way of
crows through

trees
that way or

this snow

has no
will
 

 
say hello
to the

tele
graph

pole
here

in the
snow

listen for

white
no

ise
 

 
here
at be

lief’s

thic
ken

ing
edge

a way
of sky

starts

to flake
prop

hecy
 

 
once made

cultivation’s
marks in

fields

with a tractor
of dream

now as
trees’ feet

tread along
hedges

a sky’s

solidity
drags

over ground
snow’s

harrow
 

 
in a winter’s
fields go

gather

memories’

white falling
feathery

specks
 

 
for years trees
as children

walked on
the spot

and now
as snow cleans

away most
details

it can
be seen

that the dark
ness of

wood just
as flesh

has thickened
 

 
the snowcloud’s
receding

edge trails

( through the clear
   blue )

pieces of

                       soft

                                          falling

         self
 

 
so is it
twigs &

branches that
call us

back

or tracks
across

ground
that un

ravel our
distances

or is it
that fine

line
bord

er where

sky’s will al
ways el

udes
us
 

 
cattle may pass
through a gate

way

just as light
may fra

              cture

and frisk
across snow

                            whilst moles
                            move

                            through soil
 

 

Photographs by Nikki Clayton
Poems by Mark Goodwin
The photographs were taken on 10 February 2021, during a walk that began & ended at the medieval village of Old Ingarsby, and took in the medieval villages of Quenby & Cold Newton. The photograph with the church is of the village of Hungarton, approaching from the south.

 


Mark Goodwin
‘s publications include
All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), acclaimed by Andy Clarke in Climber magazine as ‘An exhilarating journey through the glorious variety of UK rock, including mountain rhyolite, eastern grit, Llanberis slate… a fascinating and rewarding collection that amply repays backtracking and re-reading.’ Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.85 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)

 


Reach, at year’s end 2020 | Mark Goodwin & Nikki Clayton

To fully experience all the dark details (& certain tiny spots of light), please view by clicking on a photo and then selecting ‘View full size’ (which can be found at the bottom of the pane in the lower right-hand corner of the window.)
 

 

 
pulled from
a bag a

way
in

tended
tangles to

speck
 

 
where heaven’s
ways meet

with earth’s

fibres &
light

grip
 

 
shelter’s thin
line of

hearth force a
sheen

smeared

over buried
past

pressed

under
ever

appro
aching

glass
y vast
 

 
light’s

tiny monuments
reach
 

 
in
tention

is un
pack

ing entang
lement’s

fibre-cares

sed
speck
 

 
travel’s
bubble of

sear
ch

star
ed

at by
to

wering’s

star
t
 

 
above a
feast of

shades
in a

branched reaching

that silent
tink

of a
last ex

tinct bird

perched
 

 
through a
head or

by

to right
or left

( or west or
east )

the face

of near
& limbs

of

distance
 

 
a bird of
a world’s

way will
peck

the earth
for

heaven’s
spill

 

Photographs by Nikki Clayton
Poems by Mark Goodwin
Bradgate Park, Leicestershire, 31 December 2020

 


Reach, a Bradgate Oddity | Mark Goodwin

Introduction by Lord ‘Broc’ Howk

Over the years, the Greater Bradgate Range of Leicestershire has yielded strange journeys. The territory is laden with ghosts, mostly in the form of venerable oaks with their crowns chopped out – reminders of poor Lady Jane Grey, that very young and innocent queen, who after her nine days of royalty was beheaded. And there is also Old John himself, that old beer mug of a folly atop one of the grander peaks. In the wrong light one can hear the whinnies of the tortured horses that galloped around the race circuit that encircled Old John’s prominent lookout. They weren’t really tortured, but by gods we can imagine the racket. And none of this, of course, is believable – rather it requires a particular kind of faith, a particular way of looking at things aslant. And the same too can be said for the miniature mountaineering to be found in the park. It does not require a sense of adventure, and anyway adventure is a word that fell off a bygone cliff … o so long ago! … but also it died of late on the moors, roasted on one of those dreadful disposable BBQs. Yes, poor old adventure, just another extinct bird! But where was I? … And then there was the Sliding Stone with its oaken snail, just about to eat the pretty stand of birches … No? … No! … Ah, yes, the sense required to enjoy the rock and soaring mountains of Bradgate … well, it is a sense of other that is required, and a sense that what doesn’t make sense can be sensed – can be felt. Yes, this is a grand outdoorsness, a vast wilderness of condensed values, one where a red stag is just as big as a stag beatle … perhaps the drummer, Ringo, rather than the really famous bugs. Anyway, enough of me … let’s get stuck into Bradgate.

THE GREATER BRADGATE RANGE IS AT LAST OPEN AGAIN

As long as Mountaineers respect ancient Pagan traditions and don’t actually stand on summits, expeditions are now allowed. Sir Christopher Lichen commented:

‘This is great news for the great climber who longs for a great place!’

[ Topo diagram courtesy of GBRFC, the Greater Bradgate Range Frictioneering Club (the real one!, est. 1890). This rather gruff club has refused permission for the climbs’ grades to be quoted. Besides, the GBRFC’s grading system would take up too much space, for example: the grade (not the description!) of Lady Jane’s Arête runs to half a page of A4. ]

… All I can remember from Bradgate was the deer and Old John. Is that base camp? …

… I didn’t say I’d got a new range of kit! It might of sounded like it – but I actually said: “And what better way to go but dressed in a new Range”, so yes, I didn’t specifically say ‘kit’, and ‘range’ can refer to a range of things, including kit, granted, but in this case we …

… Well spotted! Yes, base camp is where the ghosts sat around chatting about Lady Jane’s skull. We had to move the mess tent because the local Charnwood porter refused to cook in it. Mind you, there was a very strange sensation in that tent …

… but in this case we are talking about being dressed in a mountain range, a tiny mountain range. There is also the word ‘range’ as related to ‘reach’ – and as you can see I’m making a really long (st)reach to finish Old John …

… Little Braggers looks about my grade …

… Look, I was actually expecting you to pick me up on the number of routes, not question whether or not I’d created a new range of outdoor clothing … the point is, it is not how we dress, or what we dress in, but where we dress … a range of bright colours, of alp …

… Yes, Little Braggers is only 296 ft long! Much shorter than the rest, however, it actually has one of the hardest moves in the range – there is a thirty foot pitch of completely gleaming stone, incredibly slippery … as if some giant mollusc had slid across it …

… a range of bright colours, of alpenglow, can be cut to a romantic jaunt and easily slipped over young muscles, or alternatively one can simply watch one’s own shadow dress itself in the late stone of day. By the way, do you like my bald patch in this topo? – it is a site, a …

… it … it is a site, a place of its own, somewhere to pitch a memory … and sleep snug under the rattling canvas of bygone ravens, their lovely inky blue wings shivering against the flight of a tiny mind-sized mountain … no, I will not take it back, it, the sentiment of stone, it …

… it … the sentiment of stone, it … cements my sentience …

FOR THE LITTLE CLIMBER AT HOME IN TINY MOUNTAINS

WE ALSO HAVE A NICE RANGE OF BRIGHT COLOURS,
TO HELP THE LEICESTERSHIRE MOUNTAINEER STAND OUT

… No, that’s not true at all. You must not say that! Look, take the Yeti for example, that was entirely invented by the great 1930s mountaineer, Eric Shipton. Having said that, yes, there is in Bradgate something … a thing rather large and strange. I did see this thing once, but it defies visual description. In fact it was more of a feeling – a dark trickle of hairy hissing, and yet soundless, and not actually felt. You see, even though I do so love the place – it is probably where I first scrambled on rock, as a toddler, and the park for me is indeed a bowl of embers, each ember a memory glowing – but still there is something very Englishly dark there …

[ An author approaching the summit of the hill Old John, with its folly of the same name. The grove directly below the sun is called Tyburn. The war memorial can be seen just appearing at the edge of the woods left of Old John. ]

… I have balanced along the Bradgate Dragon Back – a great pleasure of walking a miniature mountain spine. I have with my love sat out more than one New Year’s Eve, both of us perched at high altitude, with frostbitten fingers, but glad to be clinging to life … just as the great slab of the calendar tips … watching the lights of Leicester shimmer far below us … and the jubilant fireworks sprout like miniature war. I have explored the oaken wonders of the figures here, with my little children – I have entrusted both my kids to the arms of the park’s oaks. I have watched the grainy cine film of my grandparents hand-in-hand walking – before I was born – down by the River Lin. And my love & I have lovingly cursed the ‘naughty badgers’ that have so often during their snoofling in the dark scratched off the garments of the ground in search of their sustenance … leaving their tell-tales of rucked turf … and freshly disturbed soil. And all these moments gleam gladly through me, and I cup the bowl of legends, I cup it with my ears! … just as the woodpecker yaffles by day or the owl sculpts by night …

[ Mark (photo-shopped) on the Great Slab of the Calendar (named thus by the (un)author). ]

… But yes, there is no escaping, by climbing nor walking, not by going across nor up … there is something dark laid down here … below us all … for actually, there is something dark laid down under all England … no mountain is ever conquered … but certainly minds can be … and souls can

… fail … and bodies can break …

HORRORS OF LEICESTERSHIRE, POSTCARD #5

 

Note, according to Wikipedia: Bradgate Park (local pronunciation: /ˌbrædɡʌt/) is a public park in Charnwood Forest, in Leicestershire, England, northwest of Leicester. It covers 850 acres (340 hectares). The park lies between the villages of Newtown Linford, Anstey, Cropston, Woodhouse Eaves and Swithland. The River Lin runs through the park, flowing into Cropston Reservoir which was constructed on part of the park. To the north-east lies Swithland Wood. The park’s two well-known landmarks, Old John and the war memorial, both lie just above the 210 m (690 ft) contour. The park is part of the 399.3 hectare Bradgate Park and Cropston Reservoir Site of Special Scientific Interest, which has been designated under both biological and geological criteria.

The visible geology in Bradgate Park ranges from some of the oldest (Precambrian) fossil-bearing rocks in England to the youngest (Quaternary). They include rocks with some of the oldest known developed forms of fossil animal life in Western Europe.

 

All original photos by Nikki Clayton.

Image manipulation by Mark Goodwin, from original photos by Nikki Clayton.

Thanks to Jo Dacombe & Chris Jones for their responses to the Bradgate topo, which are included in the ‘conversation’ below the topo.

Thanks also to Boz Morris … for banter !


Mark Goodwin
‘s publications include
All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), acclaimed by Andy Clarke in Climber magazine as ‘An exhilarating journey through the glorious variety of UK rock, including mountain rhyolite, eastern grit, Llanberis slate… a fascinating and rewarding collection that amply repays backtracking and re-reading.’ Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.85 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


The Flattening & Covering Wave, an April this 2020 | Louis & Mark Goodwin

[Bund, warehouse, & buried ways, Bittesby, Leicestershire, April 2020]

.

At the start of this century (centuries ago) … the little girl was sad to leave the house she’d started her life in. Her daddy said to her, one night at bedtime: “Look in your palm – there, a little Bittesby … imagine it, kept in your hand. And look, you can see twists of smoke wriggling from the chimney.”

.

Dad asks me to photograph the splitting driveway, the warehouse, the planted embankment and the old cottage. The warehouse looks like a wave, I think, stopped in time, high crested and mighty, sloping towards us.
.

A man, who measured out his days in places, who said of himself only what his places said of him … after an ill-ease had swept away ways, he crouched in lengths of imagined grasses, and craned his neck, and stared up at a wave of time … the way the rusty lock & the bright key, together in the sky, fight/fought like crow & kite. Impossible. Impossible to imagine. It will never happen. O the open sky, wider than any open door. It brings all. Here is (or was or will be) a man whose place name is his names’ places, the man whose ways measure spaces … in or out … and there is a man too … there … a way away … but the gap cannot be reached across.
We must not touch. This dis
placement, here, this dis
ease, here, or
there

                                             distances … kept … and …

distances gone

.

There is litter in the trees of this once rural home – the window-view from within the front room would now be one of a digger-made mound. We walk in the garden and the warehouse-wave hides behind the house. My memories of this place all come from pictures – I know that where I stand right now is where once I sat in my father’s lap, on a bench, as Tess stood happy as flowers. How odd, to be now taller than my dad, to be watching him stare up at the long chimney and the bees that have made it their home.

.

[Victorian map of Bittesby. The remains of the original medieval village, unmarked on this map, lie north of the 1st big letter B. Bittesby is listed in the Domesday Book. In 1279 the village was made up of twenty-five families. Enclosure and depopulation is recorded in 1488 and 1494, and by 1536 only one family was left.]

.

A man made of places places his selves in a weather-faded crisp packet in the garden at the back of a lost country cottage, a cottage miniaturised in a young woman’s palm. He has also made of himself a miniaturisation, one of an array, a scale, a measurement of selves … condensed. No harm, he only places these selves of him there/here, in this plastic enclosing, to keep the rain off, should it come, he stays here/there to keep his selves dry. And now he (and his various ways) stare into the pin-sharp eyes of the mouse who has also crept into the crisp packet with him. And this mouse, with those sharp-lit eyes precise as stars … whispers, gently and kindly to him:

 

I am John, a poet of a kind. May I share
with you, and your kind, this new enclosure,

this further tightening of mind? It hurt when
they first parcelled all the open ground and owned

it. And it hurts still, to find all the fields
of your heart tightened into a plastic packet.

Let’s make peace – you & I – lets both nourish our
selves with honest sorrow, for what chases you

here is worse than the rat, the weasel or the cat
after me. Such a tiny, invisible particle, a protein

-something … such a new hunter …

.

[Bund, warehouse, and abrupt end of way, Bittesby, Leicestershire, April 2020]

.

I was one when I lived here. Mum did the dishes with me on her back. Dad had a writing office upstairs. Minnie and Jez, who are now buried here, were free to roam fields and hunt mice. We had fires in the garden and Mum and Dad had friends over and Dad was the one who could get me to sleep. I don’t remember any of this and yet somehow it lives in me as I stand here now. The day is bright, Dad is contemplative. I look at the cottage and want to tell him it looks like a museum piece – I don’t. Moss sniffs the earth and pisses on the uncut grass. I wish I had more to say about this cottage and my time here but I don’t. I’ve no memories, only feelings. This is the patch of ground, the corner of earth, where I took my first steps, first breaths, first baths and shits and burps and giggles and tears and dreams – where I smeared yogurt on my face, unaware of the ‘I’ that had a face and oblivious to the yogurt that smeared it. Everything is everything when you’re one – I didn’t watch, I saw, unable to label and name. They called me ‘The Bead’ for my wide eyes, that now weep. I don’t remember this place, but it’s where I started and its essence lives in my root.

.

I found a ball of grass among the hay
And progged it as I passed and went away
And when I looked I fancied something stirred
And turned again and hoped to catch the bird
When out an old mouse bolted in the wheats
With all her young ones hanging at her teats

.

[Bittesby, Leicestershire, April 2020]

.

hear how normal creeps

up quiet streets
across fields falls
like shadow rising

up a lane

how strangeness flees
as normal’s almost
noiseless glide hides
sudden arrival here

is normal this

cat made of mist circles
round your ankles
then wraps itself
about your feet

one day you walked

your streets
your fields your

lanes next

day normal
is your keep

.

I’m jerked out of reminiscence by a pair of striding legs glimpsed through the over-grown garden hedge. I sense trouble immediately and have no doubt it’s someone coming to check us out, tell us it’s private land and that we ought to clear off. Dad turns the corner and meets him first. The man barks something like: “What are you fellas up to, then?” Dad says “There’s no need to worry,” and explains how, decades ago, he used to live here, with me. The man’s a security guard, suited and booted in black, he has a tattoo on his face wrapping his right eye and a dark beard – this suddenly says to me: ‘I’ll fuck you up’. I want to write about him, now, as if he was a horrible cunt but in reality he was actually decent and friendly. He explained that we couldn’t be here, and in fact this cottage, he said, would be ‘flattened’ very soon. Once the COVID-19 lockdown was done a bulldozer would come through here, and drive right over the cottage and flatten it. He said that over and over again. The cottage – ‘flattened’. The farm buildings down the lane – ‘flattened’. All to be turned into warehouses. I looked at him and said: “I didn’t know that … I was one when I lived here.” Why did I say that to him? As if he might say: “Oh, well in that case I’ll put in a word and see if they can save it for you!” He wasn’t keen on it being knocked down either, but not because of how much it meant to me – he didn’t know about that. He said something about how it would have done for him and his family whilst he managed the security on the warehouses.

.

[The position of Bittesby Cottages & Bittesby Farm, present day. Bittesby Cottages (semi-detached) were originally Bittesby Farm’s tied cottages (late 19th Century).]

.

She looked so odd and so grotesque to me
I ran and wondered what the thing could be
And pushed the knapweed bunches where I stood
Then the mouse hurried from the craking brood
The young ones squeaked and as I went away
She found her nest again among the hay
The water o’er the pebbles scarce could run
And broad old cesspools glittered in the sun

.

My dad said nothing. “You’re a tired old collie!” the man declared to my dog. “You wanna put her on a lead round here, the guard dogs will tear her to pieces, you’ll have a dogfight on your hands.” He escorted us out of the garden, down the lane and back into the fields where we had come from. We kept our COVID-19 social distance, and my dad said to him that he would shake his hand, but of course, we don’t do that anymore. I didn’t want to shake his hand. I wanted to live in this memory where I was born, I wanted to make it brilliant and rich with life. Later, I wept for the rabbit warrens that would be buried, the birds and insects that would be lost, the graves of Minnie and Jez that would be covered … and the beautiful bees in the chimney pot. I didn’t say any of this to my dad at the time. I joked about the security guard and swallowed all my pain. But inside, deep, in that root I felt the beginning of something, a spark of something – perhaps vengeance, or justice, perhaps a hope for the home I didn’t remember? All I know at the moment is – this land will be covered in glaring warehouse blocks, and those blocks will cover part of my root.

.

[Bittesby Cottages, Leicestershire, and ‘the great warehouse-wave’, April 2020. The ‘long chimney’, with the bees in it, can just be seen rising out of the back garden. The chimney belongs to the garden’s brick-built outbuilding, which was probably where the Victorian farm-workers’ laundry was done.]

 

Photos by Louis Goodwin

Contemporary map image adapted by Mark Goodwin from osmaps.ordnancesurvey.co.uk

The sonnet that has been split in two within this piece (in bold italics) is John Clare’s ‘Field-Mouse’s Nest’.

Louis Goodwin is soon to resume his actor training, but via socially-isolated webcam. He will be 21 this August.


Mark Goodwin
‘s publications include
All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), acclaimed by Andy Clarke in Climber magazine as ‘An exhilarating journey through the glorious variety of UK rock, including mountain rhyolite, eastern grit, Llanberis slate… a fascinating and rewarding collection that amply repays backtracking and re-reading.’ Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.85 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


Keep on Searching | Mark Goodwin

Don’t Lose Your Way kilometre-square
King’s Lock, River Soar, Leicestershire

I very recently received a pleasing email from Jack Cornish of Britain’s walking charity The Ramblers, related to their Don’t Lose Your Way campaign. It began:

Hello Mark,

Our records show that you’ve been busy mapping lots of squares – thank you for helping to uncover and save generations of lost paths and hidden ways. Together we’ve mapped over 50% of England and Wales.

I of course informed Ordrey, and she agreed that someone called Jack Cornish is perfectly named to announce that Cornwall is currently amongst the top three counties (along with Hampshire & Derbyshire) which can clearly be seen on this map of completed squares.

The said map (that you, dear reader, cannot at this moment – reading this – actually see) clearly and very satisfyingly shows how very many of Wales’ & England’s kilometre-squares have – by various volunteers across the lands – already been coloured in. Have been checked. Have been scoured for paths & ways of right that have slipped off our present tongues of ground. And Ordrey is invigorated to find that fresh old secrets will now – hopefully – grow back through her skin.

Jack Cornwall went on to congratulate me: You’re among our top mappers, and with your support we can tick these areas off in no time.

It is me who should be thanking Jack & The Ramblers. For the into-a-future opportunity to imagine mythical wanderings across a double map of present/past. And for the future possibility of a few more slivers of free ways for us to walk … more threads for us to tread among England’s pastures private. Anyway, I’m in danger of diverging from my original direction …

All this avid mapping activity on-line is not because I’m a political activist, you understand. It is simply because I’m someone (or even various ones) who(m(e)) really really like(s) to walk without being hindered. And also someone who can stare for hours-on-end-@ Ordnance Survey maps. So when the Ramblers very kindly gave me this opportunity to pore over contemporary & historical Ordnance Survey maps on-line, and to trace lost footpaths, and to tick off kilometre-squares in a deliciously satisfying colouring-in way … well …

… Ordrey yet again took me by the mind and led me along the streets of Tombland. Oh, yes – by the way – she calls it Tombland because so very much more is buried there than has ever been uncovered …

 

Click here for details of The Ramblers’ Don’t Lose Your Way project.
Sign the ‘Don’t criminalise trespass’ petition here.
A recent tweet-poem by Mark Goodwin illustrating the absurdity of criminalising the movements of virtually … everybody

Mark Goodwin‘s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), acclaimed by Andy Clarke in Climber magazine as ‘An exhilarating journey through the glorious variety of UK rock, including mountain rhyolite, eastern grit, Llanberis slate… a fascinating and rewarding collection that amply repays backtracking and re-reading.’ Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.85 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


If You Go Up To Higger Today | Mark Goodwin

My latest book with Longbarrow Press – Rock as Gloss – is full of various characters, some made of geology’s processes and others made of meat-&-bone, some wild animals & others animals of culture, and some of them entirely fictioned, and others drawn from the actual human world. At the very end of last August my partner Nikki & I enjoyed some time with one of the actual humans that Rock as Gloss engages with. The following is an expression of an afternoon of being with large pebbles (or little boulders) & Johnny Dawes (click on the images to view the caption to each photograph). Before we begin though, I will give you the note from Rock as Gloss’s Gloss of Rockery, that refers to Johnny:

Johnny Dawes is often described as a legend of British climbing. During the 1980s he produced the first rock-climbs to be graded E8 & E9 (the E standing for extreme). Dawes is an artist of sorts – a unique visionary & practitioner of movement-&-adhesion. He is also a profoundly gifted poetic climber-writer.

If You Go Up To Higger Today


 
Johnny is wearing a bright yellow t-shirt, a white golf cap, shorts, red socks, and also a pair of jaggedly-patterned-sportily-branded trail-running shoes. Sunshine sings off Johnny’s torso. The sky is wearing a bright blue sharp suit … uniform … but because of Johnny’s clownish brilliance, this precise sky is now all-ready relaxing … and laughing too … now our sky today wears a few white chiffon ruffles, and is even this very now suddenly waving gentle cloud-hankies … all sporting! … all so over the top, and leaving itself wide … wide open … open to be accused of being some kind of fop … way … way up … up its own farce … But this collaborating sky also makes a clean late August breeze hiss across Higger’s top, and gently weesh in Higger’s grasses, and then rub Higger’s grit with a blunter sound of air. And this is just simply beautiful, and utterly present. An invisible scurrying is a circling transparent cat settling on its cushion …


 
Johnny wonders if what we are doing today could be called ‘pebble-wrestling’, or perhaps ‘frictioneering’. He talks of the little helicopter that must land on each toe-tip step to show the places we can or must land our bodies’ intentions (but not our minds’!). The dark pellets of sheep-droppings, haphazardly spread in the grit-dust or presentation-placed on brillo-pad tufts, are part of a fairytale trail out of the maze, or better, deeper into it … into a place in which place is digested. And the mass of flying ants in the air, and some of them that grapple with my arm-hairs, these lusty specks are all taking part in Johnny Python’s Pebble Circus. And yes, of course, there is something irreverent and Englishly rude about this clown … but also he is hugely generous … his way of drawing passers-by into having a go at handless climbing … see the performer handing out gifts of precision standing, walking, running, and leaping … and all on un-cliffs, on nothing higher than his yellow-t-shirted chest. And none of the passers-by have a clue of just who the grit-wizard is … and the wizard loves that fact …


 
Often, over the years, I’ve walked across this top above Higger, the small boulders laid out like a colony of utterly still beings hunkered into deep time. And I have stood on some of them and also jumped from one to t’other. But today we get to see the stone’s secret textures. (And we realise that we could act    ually believe that these stones were always wai    ting for us.) Johnny is moving his head side-to-side, Bollywood-dancer-owl-style – he is showing Nikki how to see the rugosities rise and fall, and how footholds dance with what Johnny has understood as a particular kind of parallax, special to one who wishes to connect her-his-its-their mineral frame to that of the Earth’s … limitless genders …


 
Johnny is now gently plugged, by his feet, into a small tor that is fractal-exactly the same shape of the little cloud six or so thousand feet up in the blue and some nineteen miles north-north west of this gritty here. Stanage is way off at the back, a line of knuckles on a keyboard of geology, and just across the way opposite us Burbage is arranging absolute stillness at an incredible speed. Both edges partaking of and freely giving out the sweet silent sounds of what Johnny calls foot-notes. And here we are miniaturised amongst this thisness, focusing in on the grains of grit, and the most primitive of human gestures: that one where your throat wobbles to make … a gurgle sound that is hard to explain … yes, Higger is laughing with infinities of grit, and we are laughing with it … her … him … them …

 


All photos by Nikki Clayton.

This piece is massively informed by the insights & concepts of Johnny Dawes, who, over the last couple of decades, has been working extremely hard to condense and clarify his special understanding of stone & movement into artistic expression … but also into a series of clear instructions that can be shared with a variety of others …

 

 
Mark Goodwin‘s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019), a category finalist for the 2019 Banff Mountain Book Competition. Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.85 postage))

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)

 

 

 


Touching the Gleam | Mark Goodwin

a poet as rock – an attempt to gloss

Andrei Tarkovsky identified the specific material with which art-cinema works – time. He said that it’s obvious a musical composer works with sound, and that a writer’s material is words, a painter’s is colour, and a potter’s clay … Tarkovsky realised that the artist film-maker sculpts in time. A material of memory!

‘Where will they put [time]?’

‘They won’t put it anywhere. Time isn’t a thing,
it’s an idea. It’ll die out in the mind.’

I feel enlightened by and confident in Tarkovsky’s explaining that cinema is made out of time (or rather, perhaps that should be ‘from’ time?). And I’m comfortable that obviously a sculptor’s material could be marble, and that a musician’s is sound. But I’m not so sure about a writer’s material … or rather I’m not so sure about Tarkovsky being right about the material a poet works with. And in turn this starts to make me doubt whether a poet is actually a writer … because writers do … of course, of a matter of course … work with words …

But to say a poet works with words, that is, perhaps, like saying a rock-climber works with stone. Of cause [sic], a writer works with words, in the same way that a map-maker works with symbols that represent geometry that represent ground … that …

… But what is it that a rock-climber works with? What is a rock-climber’s material? Am I being foolish, to assume that a rock-climber makes something, that a climber is a maker? Yes, perhaps being a fool is the point, or a point … in time … or out … of time …

A person has one body,
Singleton, all on its own,
The soul has had more than enough
Of being cooped up inside
A casing with ears and eyes
The size of a five-penny piece
And skin – just scar after scar –
Covering a structure of bone.

A map-maker works on paper (or at least they used to!). A climber moves on … (or is that with?) … rock. If we are to believe, remembering that just like the word ‘fool’, ‘belief’ is a vital word for human-ness … if we are to believe, or rather if I am to believe … that a climber is a maker, that a climber in the act of climbing creates some ‘thing’ … then what is it that they make? The produce of the map-maker is their (or our?) map, made out of symbols of measurements. The produce of the/a writer is an/the … essay … prose … a novel … a story … a narrative … fiction … journalism … The Tweet! Where does a poem happen? When? What is it made of? Where from? Does it happen on the rock’s surface, or start deep down amongst strata, way back in deep time … or is it only now held in (the) memory, that sensation of fingers pressing against gritstone, or toes jammed into a sharp slate crack? The particular layout of holds … and textures on the rock’s surface … did the first climber to find that pattern, or put that pattern together … make the holds? And what of the climbers who follow after that first ascent? What do they make of it? What did they make of it? What will … ?

The road is mirrored in your tearful eyes
Like bushes in a flooded field at dusk,

I love … and I think that is the right word … I love to see light change the expressions of stone. How Stanage Edge is made of light and not rock, or at least it is made of light if I just watch … but … it is with … out any doubt in … my body … when I touch … it … made … of gritstone (and perhaps ‘from’ that substance too) … and when I remember my moving on the rock (or with the rock?), and I recall the resonance of other climbers having moved there also, and remember that others will also move in tune with the stone(’s) pattern(s) … at the ‘same’ point in space … but … long after I’m gone … then this memory feels …

… like a gleam, a glossy trembling, a smoothness just … vibrating over the rock’s rough surface …

In answer to each step you take
The earth rings in your ears.


Notes:

First quote: from The Possessed, Fyodor Dostoevsky,
quoted by Andrei Tarkovsky in ‘Imprinted Time’
(chapter 3 of Sculpting in Time).

Second quote: the first stanza of Eurydice,
by Arseniy Tarkovsky (Andrei’s father),
(translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair). This poem
is spoken in Tarkovsky’s film Mirror.

Third quote: first two lines of the second stanza
of Ignatievo Forest, by Arseniy Tarkovsky
(translated by Kitty Hunter-Blair).
This poem is also heard in Mirror.

Fourth quote: the last two lines
of Eurydice, by Arseniy Tarkovsky.


Image: Hen Cloud by Paul Evans (click here to view his paintings, drawings and poems for the Seven Wonders project). Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017), Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), and a new collection, Rock as Gloss (Longbarrow Press, 2019). Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.85 postage))

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


Seven Forms Through | Mark Goodwin

for Paul

On the ninth of November 2018, climbers Paul Evans & Mark Goodwin performed together at the Kendal Mountain Literature Festival.

The following cycle of seven
poem-photo-combinations is drawn
from that experience.

All photos are by Nikki Clayton.

 

to cradle
a will

of liga
ment is

to say a
line’s si

lent rub

 

 

to twin
to twine

to tear an
elbow’s

place of
sp

rung to

point

 

 

sen
se

caught in a
chest’s

zawn or

a lung’s
boiling

corrie all

sense

less as
kilometres of

rock’s

pig

ments

 

 

for

ced per
spec

tive takes
human

forms

through un
feel

ing stone’s
art

less ob
duracy

 

 

hear

t

less blind
stone knows

nothing

of human
com

edy or trag
edy yet

people

feel

 

 

as a bran
ch bro

ken in
win

dow light as
rock-tones’

multi co
loured sil

ence

our own I

is on
ly of

eros

ion

 

 

and even as won

and un
even as now a

mongst rock’s
hard

est reflected gest
ures this

briefest
page of

ex
is

tence has lit
specks

of

peace

 

 


Artist Paul Evans has collaborated with a number of Longbarrow Press poets in recent years; click here to view the paintings, drawings and poems for the Seven Wonders project. His main website can be found here.
Mark Goodwin’s publications include
All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press in late January 2019). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. These themes are developed in his new collection, Rock as Gloss. Click here to visit the Rock as Gloss microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Rock as Gloss: £12.99 (hardback)

UK orders (+ £1.85 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


Depending Angles | Mark Goodwin

an introduction to Doorways    Gather

I lived a childhood in a typical old Leicestershire red-brick farmhouse. So to go to, and to go inside another old typical red-brick farmhouse – that had been deserted many years before – was bound to rebuild various rural childhoods and cause an array of layers of childhoods … and squeeze them through various degrees of haunts’ angles. One haunt’s interference can boost another haunt’s signals, or it can cancel. It all depends upon aligning care-filled angles made by corners & the oblongs of doors & ways. And it so very much depends on the angle with which we hold one haunting up to the light, as we bring another haunting in front of it, or behind it. And haunt-waves – which we call sound – are always dependent, utterly dependent, on whether the air that transmits them is being breathed or not …

And as we snap from one place to another – as we change dimensionally – we may or may not notice our existence’s transiting judder(s) …

Not long ago I went down into the cellar of my parents’ old Leicestershire red-brick farmhouse to make a field-recording. I tapped various bottles and also blew into their necks. I dabbled my fingers into the little puddle that is always there at the bottom of the stairs, where-water-has-settled-in-a-dip-where the quarry tiles have slumped ( a change to the cellar’s physical substance, a transformation that probably finalised its position decades before I was born ). My son’s Collie god, that so reminds me of one of the gods of my childhood, heard my underground percussion via the cellar’s sky-light and so, as gods do, replied to my noise as if hearing a prayer. That field-recording of that place in that time has been laid beside another-that video recording of another that-place in another that-time, and so those-layers have now bled out unfathomable times … that have somehow wept … together … and merged into some organised kind …

And many years before the field-recording I made of my mum’s & dad’s cellar – in one part of a Leicestershire – and before the video that artist Martyn took from the light that had been kept in that deserted farmhouse – in an other part of a Leicestershire – I had made a poem in a large barn in the Morvan of France, just to the west of the Côte d’Or escarpment …

And that House At Out poem – its text once barned in a book – has recently passed through my voice’s sound to be placed beside – and yet also so very much within – the fields of a video & an audio recording at

suddenly

 

[To experience the full sonically-detailed jaunt please wear headphones.]


Martyn Blundell is an artist and film-maker. His other film-collaborations with Mark Goodwin can be viewed here. Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press later this year). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite 
for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

Steps: £12.99

UK orders (+ £1.70 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


Matter | Mark Goodwin

Glen Arnisdale & Gleann Dubh Lochain, March 2018

[…]   without human meaning,
Without human feeling, a foreign song.
Wallace Stevens

photo by Boz Morris: Nikki on Beinn Sgritheall. Beinn Sgritheall (pronounced ben skree-huhl) rises above the hamlet of Arnisdale & the north shore of Loch Hourn. Sgritheall is Gaelic for a scroll.


 
After days of snowy & iced ground, after abrupt ups and steep downs, we turn from the mountains’ tops … and so we now walk along, we walk a longa gentler un   dulating ground down in the glen. The sting of fast-thrust snow specks in the face is already from some other story. Down here in this nestling Glen Arnisdale spring suddenly begins. Sunshine unfurls its newest of oldest gestures. Our rucksacks are smaller, and our boots not so big. We need no crampons nor axes. It is like a well-earned holiday, this warm day, after the early starts for high cold tops. And holy it is as some unidentified bird pours her or his or its voice through and across the loveliness of Glen Arnisdale. This song is nearly thrush, but it is not thrush. And when we see the bird flit from tree to tree … its jizz, its gestures, its motion is not of a bird I know. I then, at that moment, or probably another moment I made or make from memory, at that some moment I remembered – I remember – how a poet called Peter Riley wrote, writes, will write … that he felt (feels) something about a place named Alstonefield mattered, mattered so very much …

Such inexplicable matter, and mattering happens for some version of me – here or there – in a Glen Arnisdale …

Photo by Nikki Clayton: Looking west down Glen Arnisdale. The mouth of Loch Hourn, The Sound of Sleat, and Sleat on the Isle of Skye can be seen in the distance.


 
Behind us, as we walk east, is Loch Hourn’s mouth, open to The Sound of Sleat. (And beyond the south shore of that slot of sealoch, and its sprung expression of mixed waters – fresh & salt – stands the almost fabled Rough Bounds of Knoydart, tops snow-glossed and east flanks silvered.) In front of us, to east, Glen Arnisdale’s wide pasture ends in a tight throat where River Arnisdale is squeezed between rock-knolled hill-ground. And through this throat-gate we pass into Glenn Dubh Lochain, with its two damned reservoirs, its two black lochans, set prettily and smoothly in some newly revealed scape of tangled textures. Spring’s sunlight shatters glee gorgeously sad across these dark foils. We try to stalk otters along these lochans’ frilly banks, but we see nothing, no signs at all, but I notice how I hope I am watched …

Photo by Nikki Clayton: In the glen junction, or where Gleann Dubh Lochain bends to the east, looking easterly.


 
And further on, and where this hidden glen t-junctions, and where burns merge, and where little pylons carrying power-lines pass, their frames’ movements through this place defined by their actually staying still within it … here, at this juncture, there are some ruins. The larger house has been sky-opened, and young rowans grow on the battlements of its crumbling. And the much smaller equally sky-seen & sky-tortured roofless one-roomed cottage to the north-west of the bigger wreck, this residency is occupied by a plant-being, an old thick-trunked rowan … and all four walls of the raw open interior are peopled by glistening green ferns …

Photo by Nikki Clayton: Looking south west down Gleann Dubh Lochain, in the direction of the small reservoirs. Dubh Lochain is Gaelic for black lochans or tarns


 
I never arrived at this place as much as I never left. The little pylons, and they are little, they are children pylons in comparison to the ones I know in Leicestershire, but they are also mountaineer pylons, their smallness their fury, these beautiful pylons delicate as birches … and the mature rowan growing ever older boxed in its sky-roofed cottage …. well, my self’s (or an other’s) really having existed and not existed here or else where is as …
 

feasible as
a dance

of pylons whilst
a stoic rowan plays

that dance’s tune

with its buds

of air

 

Photo by Nikki Clayton: ruin & mountain pylons.

 

Photographs by Nikki Clayton and Boz Morris. Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press later this year). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

steps-large-e-bollandSteps: £12.99

UK orders (+ £1.70 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


A Corner & A Carried Line : A Quarry Odyssey | Mark Goodwin

an introduction to a received transmission categorised as Quarry Some

As a child I was fascinated by paintings of alien landscapes containing wrecked spacecraft. One particular sci-fi coffee-table book, called Spacewreck: Ghostships and Derelicts of Space, still stays embedded in the canyon remnants of my child brain. Such huge hulks of corroding technology, each dropped to ground like some giant letter from some lost god’s alphabet. These still moulder in my mind, cold with distance and yet hot with some kind of strange glad angst …

And I now know that such projected ghostly derelicts of super-technologies have played an important part in setting my mind towards the present pull of dereliction. Tarkovsky’s Stalker has also pulled me from one dimension into another and back out again. And so I have always been drawn to The Zone, by the forbidden fenced elsewhere, by the contained broken analogues of our breaking worlds …

A few years back I had the honour of actually travelling to some other world with a team of Quarrynauts. Together we rode over an abandoned civilisation’s traces … we held our craft fast, hitched a ride … or we passed our craft from one to the other … a baton of co(s)mic trajectories … its imagination-impetus, its creating-eye, pulled us through …

My son, a one-time technician of useful-deceptions, and a forever-improviser, had empowered a telescopic-pole with a photon-coagulator. Or to use today’s Earth language: my son had, using a strap of tractor-tyre inner-tube, mounted a digital eye to the end of an extendable aluminium pole. This pole saw the way, and its vibrant visions danced our hands as we carried it and ran … puppets we were of vision’s touch … all of us … a team of fathers & sons on the run … the run to … as well as the run from …

How we dreamed … the aluminium pole had an intelligence – aluminium intelligence – crystalline, light and strong …

But our dream also boiled with poetry fragmented into comedic fibres & jostling alien components & the frail muffled tragedies of objects’ disintegrating messages. There is no clearly discernible speech recorded in our document of our voyage, but perhaps I remember how at one point in space we discussed a mysterious murder on the far-off & ancient Benny Hill of Old Earth. We wrestled with the legal rights & moral wrongs of that murder, and the reincarnation of granite, and the filling in and filling up of outer & inner space with mineral density. Forever some corner of a universe is a corner of Earth, for a quarry is a corner of ground, and the stone dreams dug from it remain spaceless but fluid and awake eternally … and thus, to disagree ever so slightly with Gaston Bachelard, and to be much inspired by child Alice’s bold mischief, our team’s odyssey motto was: How we take flight, through a corner of a universe …

What you are about to see and hear should not be tried at home … it is only for those who wish their dwelling to be a corridor of motion, a tube of going towards gone, a carrying of nowhere from nowhere to nowhere, an event of bearing an horizon of aluminium rod … through the active radio of space … space … where no one can hear … your poetry cry …

This text introduces Quarry Some, a one-take collaborative film by Louis Goodwin, Mark Goodwin, and others:

Mark Goodwin’s fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings.


Flight of Being | Mark Goodwin

at cusp of    fledge        eyes to sky as        others of kind        call​

I was brought up on a farm in South Leicestershire, and since my childhood, some of the outbuildings have always ‘housed’, each summer, a certain kind of dweller, or rather I suppose, a certain kind of traveller. These beings made the dustbin shed a dangerous place to enter, or at least it seemed dangerous … because, more often than not as you opened the bottom half of the stable-door, the top half of which was always kept open, suddenly you would need to duck as a blurred

dark wing-edged missile
twanged past

skimming your crown …

It is just like that now – the swallows are still there at Lodge Farm, in the summer. And I, like many others, have come to know swallows as being the chirrups-&-clicks and flitting flow-visions of a particular summer place …

An intimacy of sorts. Swallows zooming the corners of the cobbled yard and then banking up into the wide summer blues above. You could never get near them – all speed & agility – and yet that fast distance they carry or project … that was, and still is, a kind of unique nearness, a bringing in of the far …

And as a child I could only vaguely imagine far-off South Africa, and how it might feel to fly and weather the long sky-hours crossing continents to that unknown ‘there’ … and then again to fly the vast space back … up Africa … across the deadly Sahara … Morocco … Spain … the high Pyrenees … France … across The Channel to England … and then up to Leicestershire again, and again to a particular rafter, in a farm’s outbuilding. And as an adult, I think I can imagine this no better. And yet, the swallows – settled in the dustbin shed – each year they bring this intercontinental distance close. Even though, swallows, flyers that they are, can never be touched …

Yes, swallows in my life, so far, have been near, but utterly impossible to touch. That cup of mud tucked into the rafters? Well … even as a small child I knew and felt just how forbidden it is to put a hand into that nest of peek-a-booing chicks. And in all the years of my growing up at Lodge Farm, and since, not one swallow chick has fallen from the nest. Or at least, I believe it to be that way …

Swallows. The impossible to touch. So, it is such a beautiful but strange surprise to me then, that my growing-up children, who are both now moving out and into the far world, should one day bring a touchable swallow to the place where I grew up …

My daughter, Tess, is a vet student, and she was recently doing some work experience at a stud farm in Shropshire. One of the other students had found a fallen swallow nestling, but was unable to carry on hand-rearing the bird, because her time at the stud farm had come to an end. She managed to persuade Tess to carry on with the rearing … and then Tess, as her work-experience came to an end, brought the swallow back home with her …

And so, that is what she, and my son, Louis, are now doing – they are hand-rearing a swallow. Or at least trying to …

a swallow chick    perched on my daughter’s fingers        its sweet alive anger    voiced        loud & yellow

Swallows grow fast, very fast. The grip of tiny claws on your finger. The strength of the grip. The fanning of wings, and the swish of air on your skin as flight is felt by the bird, but … flight not yet made, at least for now. The sudden little crinkled squawk-&-wide-open-yellow-maw as a tweezered wriggling mealy worm is offered … then gulped down. The sharp frightening hunter gaze and already skilled precise rotating head-movements as a passing fly is scanned avidly. This little creature is a terror! A hawk of a kind – a gnat harrier. So fast its ancient instincts are making its form & drive come into the world. This little creature is immensely beautiful …

Tess is trying very hard, as a vet student, as a scientist no less, NOT to get attached to this little being. She is failing, of course, but not enough to try at all to keep the creature. I’m sure part of her does not want this bird to fly, yet I know she mostly wants the creature to go, and to be free … yes! that is certainly what she wants most …

And as we talked about this, with the swallow on her hand, in the garden at my parents’ farm … suddenly the fledgling took flight … was up … and instantly bigger versions of itself boomeranged out of thin air and swooped close through the confines of the garden … and then the little swallow and the bigger ones that had joined it were beyond the beech hedge and in the big sky … Were they friendly, these big blade-shapes cavorting with the fledgling? …

The concern on my daughter’s face was as clear as the streak
of a swallow’s cry …

And then the wee bird landed on her hand again.

And my daughter, the scientist, knew, so very well, that the bird had returned only because of hunger & thirst, and nothing else. And yet, human that she is, my daughter declared her ‘love’ for the beauty of this driven beast …

droplet        swallow

Postscript

Last night, Tess took the fledgling back to Lodge Farm, which is abundant with swallows, skimming flies off the farm’s lake …

Before last night, the little bird had already made a flight with the wild adult birds, of about twenty minutes or so. I was there, at Lodge Farm, and saw how the bigger swallows curved close and jostled the fledgling. Were the ‘wiser’ birds teaching? Or were the wild creatures bullying a stranger? We couldn’t really tell. We suspect they were actually helping, but we don’t have enough knowledge of swallows to be certain of what we were looking at, other than a smaller bird circling and swooping … and being … pursued by larger beings of its kind. And when the nestless fledgling returned to my daughter’s hand, its beak was ajar: the fledgling was panting, and obviously very tired. The sudden open sky and the action of flight had taken a lot of energy …

Late last night, Louis told me that the little swallow had been flying again at Lodge Farm, and this time for over two hours … and that Tess was about to leave, suspecting she would see no more of the bird, when suddenly it landed on her head …

… I texted Tess this morning: ‘I hear, on the wing 4 over 2hrs yester eve! Lv d’ Her reply: ‘Yes but he’s not in a good way 😦 he came back absolutely exhausted and hasn’t tweeted since, and this morning I noticed a slight bloody patch on his under belly so he’s going 2 the vet today. Lv T.’

It is likely that the juvenile driven flyer, un-guided by parent swallows, simply flew and flew in circles until exhaustion … and then made a bad crash landing causing injury …

Such an immensely beautiful & driven little beast. And yet so fragile and dependent on a particular pattern of existence, a particular unfurling of events, a set of steps in a deep old precise process … that cannot be easily interrupted …

The attrition rate for juvenile swallows whilst making their first migration is so very high – only the strongest flyers stand any chance of making the journey their instincts demand of them …

It is sad, this loss. But only for us people. The swallow cares not …

Photographs by Nikki Clayton. Mark Goodwin’s publications include All Space Away and In (Shearsman, 2017) and Rock as Gloss (out from Longbarrow Press this autumn). His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

steps-large-e-bollandSteps: £12.99

UK orders (+ £1.60 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


Age of Sh All | Mark Goodwin

Spring gathers on (an) England. Onto ground’s wintery etch, onto lettery tree-shapes. Spring’s green fibres flock to this twig island. Or is it a th rust? Does the tracery of Isis – veins & photosynthetic ghost – come from within? Or fall upon all us En   glish to grip? Someone long ago … a version of me and a version of you … played Pooh sticks with An(gle)land-shaped twigs set … myths & histories afloat on a … glowing liquid. And watched them disappear beneath a bridge of our ageing, and reappear again in this later light. Old man me, and old woman you, old boy, old girl. That cross hung in our sky, that’s not Horus, that’s … purely a kestrel – he’s not fucking wind, no, he’s being feeling place. Yesterday I peeled off from my face such a faint skin and the whole faint skin of my body came away with it. So quickly May is here again. And. Again. And the nursing home that’s England’s dappled lanes has coagulated as a cloak for un-dwelled selves. Us. Perhaps. And. Look, and listen, as you cross the rumbling roads, to get to the quiet abandoned building in the woods of your life’s end … look and listen as some War-wick-shire poet’s body of words rips-&-mangles … yet the body’s bits cling to A/the blade of change. No. No En gland begins, begins all over again. Again over all be   gins, beg   ins Engl   ands.    No change of blade.    No !

This prose poem introduces ‘shall’, Mark Goodwin’s collaboration with film-maker Martyn Blundell:

Blundell’s ‘Convalescent Fade’ extends the dialogue with this now-demolished environment. Click here to view the film (with a written introduction by Mark Goodwin).

Mark Goodwin’s fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings.

Martyn Blundell is an artist and film-maker. Click here to view his other short films.


An Alphabets’-Lattice | Mark Goodwin

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At a certain time of the day the jackdaws fly over, although you couldn’t set your clock by them. I can’t be sure, but I reckon it is the light that they feel, as by degrees day changes its frequencies towards night’s. Suddenly the sky is spotted with jacks’ calls, and the odd jackdaw figure being tugged towards favourite willows … and then not much later a slightly dimmer sky is spattered with jack-jacks & dark bird-glyphs constellated in flow towards roost …

An evening or two ago, I decided to set up my field-recorder in the heart of Jackdawia – a nation-less place amongst old water-filled gravel pits, and beneath tall willows. As I arrived the odd jack sparked in the sky as a blackbird chinked and a wren’s hot sonic silver shot through twigs … the long willow limbs were purple-black and blackening against the sky’s energy-fade … the city-rim noises of by-pass cars and the general whirr of the city’s mass fractured into slippery see-through sounds as the entangling alphabets of the trees’ branches – the lattice of cruxes & twig-scripts – re-said some world … and then the jacks, and the crows too, their throats took something from the air and gave something else back … but what it was these creatures were giving, and to what or who … suddenly exquisitely impossible …

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My digital field-recorder on its silvery-legged tripod in the dark, the illuminated square of its interface lonely below the blackening willows & the twig-clots of crows’ nests. I’ve got my ears, on the side of my head, I put my fingers up to them, I can feel them … and yet that technological appendage, the field-recorder just over there, as I stand here surrounded by whirling bird-voice & crossed-crisses of tree-letters from languages not imagined yet, that prosthetic ear almost, even though I’m not touching it, that grammar-changer, that algorithm-driven gleaner of sonic traces … it changes the way I feel with my ears. Degrees of direction explode slowly through degrees of sound, each jack or caw sits its noise on a fibre of distance …

It is actually almost frightening. In fact it is frightening, so I keep my mind on my feet, the pressure of Earth pushing up towards me, just to remind me I’m not radio waves and that I have a core of bones, and that I’m standing on a planet and not being sucked out into space … because now the roost is at climax, the smithereens-cackle around me has taken the dark now and compressed it and exploded it at once, the now, the now purple-black entangled letters of the trees & countless fragments of voices from all-times-gone-&-to-come … all this now has taken dark’s noise and remade it so that the outside of my mind is the same as the inside … unbounded, borderless … except for my feet, I keep my feet, keep them, I don’t let them go, I keep them planted … for if I forget to stand on this ground here then all this utterly-foreign-deeply-familiar eternally migratory creaturely un-language that I love as much as I fear, this burn of noise will not become … this burn of noise will not become sound … and sound’s pattern will not become … will not become words …

Photographs by Nikki Clayton. Listen to Mark Goodwin’s field recordings of jackdaws & crows at roost, Watermead Park, Leicestershire, England, January 2017:

 

Mark Goodwin appears at the StAnza Poetry Festival (St Andrews, Fife) on Friday 3 March; click here for more details. His fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014), explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

steps-large-e-bollandSteps: £12.99

UK orders (+ £1.60 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)


Along a Line | Mark Goodwin

Mark on weir rail

Mark Goodwin on the weir rail, Birstall, Leicestershire (photo by Elaine Miller)

I have what could be described as a penchant for balancing along things – fence rails or tree branches or cables etc. Such balancing is intensified walking. I so enjoy the precision of toe, ball-of-foot & heel placed on solidity, and feeling for friction, as the rest of my body sways in air and pulls only against its own muscles to stay placed, and connected by feet.

As a poet I have a penchant for lines, for sound-shapes & text-shapes measured out, sometimes even in feet. The metaphor of balancer precisely stepping along a rail equalling poet is no metaphor at all, nor a symbol. Humans walk, and humans balance, and humans speak.

Very near to where I live there is a country park. It has an abundance of solid lines to balance along. One of my favourite lines is made from old railway track bolted to short pillars. This single railway rail is just a foot or two above the water of the river Soar, and it was placed here as a guard, to keep boats off the weir. Just the other day an elderly couple paused on the walkway running parallel with the rail, they watched me intently as I walked backwards along the line. When I got to one of the pillars, I stood on its rectangular top and got chatting with the couple. I mentioned to them how last summer an elderly woman, probably in her mid-seventies, had watched me just as intently as they, and that when I’d finished my walk she came over to me smiling. She was delighted, and told me that she had last walked along that very rail when she was twelve years old.

Weir, Thurmaston South

Mark Goodwin rail-balancing, Thurmaston weir, Leicestershire (photo by Nikki Clayton)

When I first started balancing in the park I was a little shy, or rather I didn’t want people to think I was showing off, so I would try to wait until no one was about. This was almost impossible, and so I was hardly getting any balancing done. And to grow the power of balance one has to do a lot of it. So, I decided that I must balance whatever, whoever was about, and that part of the practice should be to ignore whoever was watching me or speaking to me whilst I was balancing, but that once done with my balancing, should someone ask me about it I should tell them as much as I could. This practice has led me into delightful, and sometimes inspiring encounters with various kinds of people, from cheeky teenagers through to a serious but gentle Indian doctor. Most people have been inspired by my balancing and have inspired me by the ways they have questioned me.

King Lear's lake

King Lear’s Lake, Watermead Park, Leicestershire (photo by Nikki Clayton)

There have been a few incidents. Once on the railway rail by the weir a lad threw a football at me. It skimmed in front of my face. I didn’t even flinch, not one teeter. My body was so focused on being in balance on the rail, that it, or was it me?, just accepted the flying object as being part of the place & the moment. I suppose sudden ducks & low-flying geese had helped in my training. In no way do I know Kung Fu! But I certainly know how Kung Fu becomes possible. But then again, most of us can tie our shoelaces blindfold and at speed. If we really watch the dexterity of someone tying a shoelace, and detach from our habitual familiarity towards that calligraphic knotting procedure, then we see that shoelace tying is Kung Fu.

To walk along a handrail by the side of a footpath is to disobey. This is, I feel passionately, what poetry should be. Poetry is just next to the conventional ways (or habits) of being human … but it disobeys, which only goes to show those conventions more clearly, even celebrate them … but certainly challenge them.

Mark n young offical

Mark being challenged by a young official in Watermead Park, Leicestershire (photo by Nikki Clayton)

I was challenged by a very young man, a very angry young man actually. He was dressed in a dark uniform, he was a park warden. I was balancing along a rail that was placed in the landscape with the intention of keeping pedestrians & feeders of ducks & such from falling into the lake. It was never intended to be a way. But this rail has been one of my ways for some years now. As the water lapped to my right this young man barked his commands at me from my left. Part of my discipline is to ignore anyone who talks to me whilst I’m balancing. So that is what I did. I regret that this only made the young man even more angry, as he protested what he believed to be my irresponsibility. However, I would not change the way I behaved at that point. What I would change is the way I tried to reason with him afterwards, tried to get him to see that should I hurt myself, well, it would only by my fault and I would have to be responsible for it. I think it is probably illegal for me to balance on this rail, and so my argument only served to anger further this young man in his uniform. I now feel that I should’ve let the young man tell me off … and once he’d gone just carried on along my way. It’s well over a year since this took place, and I’ve not seen the young uniformed man since.

The first time I balanced the thin white rail over the lock gate my fear was intense. Although I knew falling into the lock was unlikely to do me much harm. But the lock, its narrow slot, its dark obscure water – the lock holds a terror. The terror in the bottom of the lock is still there. It’s a simple terror, and a true one – it consists of no oxygen & filthy cold wet depth. No place to live in. Over the years my balance has become so sharp that walking the thin white rail over the lock gate poised breathing above no place to live where the terror still is has become a joy. I love poetry!


The short film embedded above (created by Goodwin and filmmaker Martyn Blundell) is based on a recent visit to Watermead Park, north of Leicester, in which Goodwin’s ‘rail-balancing’ is to the fore.

Mark Goodwin’s fourth poetry collection, Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014) explores themes of climbing, walking and balancing. Click here to visit the Steps microsite for extracts, essays and audio recordings. You can also order the hardback via PayPal below:

steps-large-e-bollandSteps: £12.99

UK orders (+ £1.60 postage)

Europe orders (+ £5 postage)

Rest of World orders (+ £7 postage)

 


Circumspect & Circumflex | Mark Goodwin

What follows is about reading … and caution in a round & about way. It is not circumnavigation, it is a warning that no matter how intent we are on aiming for certainty, the terrain will always reveal its selves in ways map -readers, -makers & poets have no control over.

Llyn yr Arddu, Moelwynion

The focus sheet of water of ‘Llyn in the Moelwyns’. A version of this same little mountain lake appears in Mark’s collection Back of A Vast (Shearsman, 2010). Image: Llyn yr Arddu, Moelwynion, August 2008. Nikki Clayton & Mark Goodwin.

We read
ground through
fine detail printed
on paper …

Talking of over : it is the bent line of a circumflex that sits over y. This can equally be y as to x, or a crow’s spatial a as to be, or the question why? Confused? Well of(f) course that’s what a map’s for: to make us believe that the infinitely detailed, multi-directional & complicatedly angled terrain we find our selves in can be organised. We must be very careful about this powerful simplifying illusion. We map-maker-readers are prone to delusion if we do not watch out, and watch in, so as to spot how we may fool ourselves, especially when reading maps. As a practicing navigator, back in the 20th Century, I visited the Moelwyns in Snowdonia. Afterwards I wrote a poem centred around a small lake, or llyn. ‘Aim for certainty’ is prominent in that poem, and that poem was one of the steps I took towards making my book Steps … a book in which that poem appears.

We’re between
four walls of mist.

Appearance through mist, and missed also, has to be attended to with great care by a navigator. That poem morphed as it passed into the new cartography of a book. That poem’s shapes changed, particularly towards its end as an open misty field form insisted words spread over page. Within the mist-swirl I discovered the lore, the legend, and the curtain or veil of the word ‘llen’ with circumflex and without. In Llyn in the Moelwyns the mountain Cnicht is suddenly revealed. Cnicht has a classic mountain shape, and sits above the rucked blanket of the Moelwyns like a circumflex over an arcane vowel. Poets try so hard to be precise, and the thought of a stray comma or accent or even partial stop can wake a poet into a landscape of sweaty sheet.

The llyn’s still sheet is revealed.

Llyn is lake, or tarn. Llŷn is peninsula. Through veils of lores’ aching mists something missed emerges. A hollow of the lake & the extended point of a peninsula – they meet on maps of landscapes we cannot contort nor bend even slightly to our wills, we can only travel through our becoming, and only accept a landscape’s becoming. Kalapous is shoemaker’s last … yet our shoes or boots are always wearing out. Calibre exists as a measure in a/the round, yet to exist through movement over ground demands that various horizons’ rims ever recede. Precise measures are never

possible ; possible    is wide open. So, finally, as it turns out and turns around, events found some self, and another poem called Peninsula in The Moelwyns became.

‘Llyn in the Moelwyns’ (excerpted in grey italics throughout this piece) appears in Mark Goodwin’s new poetry collection Steps (Longbarrow Press, 2014). Click here to visit the Steps microsite.


Wrong & Right | Mark Goodwin

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Photograph by Nikki Clayton

I feel compelled to tell others about two difficult moments I have experienced … but somehow I don’t think that I can write poetry about what I feel compelled to tell … I’m not keen on writing prose … prose fixes things too much for me, whereas poetry is open … and I often feel pompous with prose, as if I’m making statements that of course can be smashed … with poetry, all flows, bends, dissolves, re-appears … and it seems to me my ego can lay no claims to another’s – reader’s – imagination … but prose … well, I don’t trust prose … certainly not my own … or at least I have tended not to … however, of late I’ve learned that just writing how things were, or are, in prose, does not have to fix, or hold ideas down … and sometimes the stable ground of prose is the only way to proceed, the only way to say certain things, and sometimes the ‘art’ of poetry cannot say such things … one cannot begin through poetry to try to tell of certain things … it feels like … stealing … and the usual expansive feeling of creativity that begins the making of poetry is somehow unobtainable, even though there is so much vivid feeling & detail, which is usually the very stuff that starts poems … the underlying drive is there, but it is cut short by a feeling of some kind of forbiddenness … I’ve not worked out why exactly I can’t make poems from certain moments, why it feels wrong … I don’t know the right answer … but I’m not sure what would be a wrong answer either … anyway, here is what I want to tell:

Years & years ago, when I lived in The Lake District, a climber called Luke Steer told me how he had found a ewe with her eyes gone, and that he had had to kill her. He used a boulder. Luke said that it was one of the most difficult things he had ever done, certainly the most horrible. And so, for years I have feared that one day in the hills I’d encounter a sheep so ravaged and in agony that I wouldn’t be able (allowed?) to just walk away – that I would have to ‘put’ the beast ‘out of its misery’, as they say.

I’m not entirely sure it is the right thing to do; perhaps us humans make an assumption about ‘misery’ & ‘agony’, and perhaps other creatures would prefer to cling to life no matter what, for as long as possible. And so perhaps I did wrong. But, yes, this last July, on the south-eastern ridge that goes up to Moel Eilio (just before the peak Foel Gron) in Snowdonia, I found a young ewe whose belly was ridden with maggots. And one of her hooves was twisted half off. She could hardly move, her gasps were frail and slow, and her snout was red raw and crawling with flies. Nearby there was the ‘perfect’ stone: a long shaft of rock, whose weight & length made for easy momentum. She was already very sluggish … my thwacks dazed her more … but she did cry … and so did I … and her legs trembled and kicked weakly. Of course, sheep’s skulls are incredibly hard, as is evident from the way they butt each other. The swinging stone & my shaking self could not kill her … so, I took some of her own wool, that had come loose from her and was lying nearby, and I pressed it into her nostril … and I pressed her snout into the short grass … daftly I kept uttering ‘Go beast, just go.’ Eventually, her frail grasping to breathe subsided. Instantly, her cornea blurred, the gleam vanished, and the flies, with jewel-green abdomens, immediately crawled all over her eye.

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Photograph by Nikki Clayton

I’m a farmer’s son. I’ve killed many cat-damaged birds, mice & rabbits, and other small badly broken creatures … but killing a creature so big … I don’t know why it should be so different … but the energy of such a tough beast, such a resilient hill creature … it is very very hard to come up against … and I’m not sure that I did right … accept that I think I responded honestly to a feeling we call ‘compassion’ … but I’m not sure it makes it the right thing to have done …

… another incident years ago: when my partner Nikki & I witnessed a young man jump in front of a lorry on the M1 just before junction 28 (on the hillside that falls to the River Erewash) … perhaps I need to write that again … yes, we saw a young man kill himself by facing an oncoming lorry … I stopped my car on the hard-shoulder and ran back up what seemed like such a long steep slope … I passed other motorists who had pulled over and were sitting motionless and shocked … the artic-lorry that had hit the young man stood alone beyond traffic backing up behind it … in front the motorway was still … and the young dead man lay absolutely still too … he looked so so heavy … at the time I imagined the surface of the road bending under his weight …

… and perhaps that imagining – in the moment – is all the poetry that can come of experiencing such an event … and for me, probably, I needed the company – the protection – of my familiar art in that moment, and needed to make something of what I was experiencing … but I can’t make that image go further, or rather ‘take’ that image further … and I can’t take a poem from this moment …

The lorry driver was a man called Terry. I remember his bewildered gentleness and fear as he gave evidence in a court room in Chesterfield. Terry saved my life. Nikki & I were passing the front of his lorry just at the moment the young man hit it. Had Terry swerved or hit his brakes too hard, I’m sure that Nikki & I, and quite a few other drivers & passengers would’ve been tumbled, with our vehicles crumpling round us. The judge clearly stated how well Terry had done – despite his suddenly being presented with a horrible emergency he had kept his artic-lorry in a straight line. Terry had to decide to drive straight on into that poor young man. I have no doubts that Terry, that day, did everything right …


Mark Goodwin’s new poetry collection,
Steps, will be published by Longbarrow Press on 24 November 2014.  Click here to visit the Steps microsite.


Key Ping Ba(p)la(n)ce | Mark Goodwin

Clogwyn y Ddysgl

Clogwyn y Ddysgl & the Clogwyn y Person Arête, with Crib Goch’s pinnacles in the background (photo by Nikki Clayton)

I was sitting on a ledge high up on a crag called Clogwyn y Ddysgl.  Below me the small watery letterbox-slot of Llyn Bach invited me to post silly messages … not exactly in the same way Plath’s Wuthering Heights’ sheep did with their black slots. This slot glittered, and I was elated, so obviously the invitation to post was also one to celebrate … in that moment I felt – being that absurdly over-the-top personhood known as poet – that I could sing a psalm to Earth’s centre, to praise the weak but very beautiful force of gravity.  Fortunately, I quickly came back to the matter, the rock, in hand and focused again on the practicalities of climbing.  My climbing partner – a tough, pragmatic yet gentle woman – was much relieved, to say the least.  And to say ‘the least’ is very hard for a poet to do.

The sheep know where they are,
Browsing in their dirty wool-clouds,
Grey as the weather.
The black slots of their pupils take me in.
It is like being mailed into space,
A thin, silly message.

I was once told by a sheep, as I balanced along the knife-edge crest of a boulder, only nine feet high mind, but nevertheless, I was told by a sheep that poets are absurd, dangerously absurd.  High minded approaches to the stuff of stone and the weak but cunning force of gravity quickly go awry. And even the most rational of people can find themselves being told off by the utterly resilient woollen beings that wander much of Britain’s uplands, if such persons approach the zone with high minds.  Of course finding one’s self is far easier than losing it.  As voters know too well!  As for poets, well … being balanced on-&-along a line, knowing when to end it, the line that is, counts for much.  Each step has to be counted, and counted on.  One step at a time, and soon, you have a whole collection of steps.

Mark Entranced by Llyn Bach

Mark fixed by the spectacle of Llyn Bach’s glinting invitation, just before his climbing partner, Nikki Clayton, snaps him out of it! (photo by Nikki Clayton)

Friction, momentum, gravity.  If the poet engages with these three through impeccable tenacity, as well as gentle negotiation, then the poet can fling off ‘the’ and become ‘a’. To be ‘a’ teetering on an edge shows how very fragile and maskly ‘the’ really is.  I, or an I, marvels at what an I has learned about gravity and how bundled attentions of flesh called muscles-&-ligaments-&-tendons – held on a stone frame we call bones – can become an aerial.  When we sing we sway, and sway is dance.  So, there I am on this ledge staring down at a dark yet glistening slot of water, and I am listening to gravity sing.  And do you know what, I very nearly thought of spreading my wings, but was put off by how pointless climbing would become if I had in a reality done so.  I mean if I’d really flown, rather than just really thought about it.  Often climbers can be very arrogant, it goes with(out) the territory: the vertical expanse that maps forget.  However, the arrogance of poets completely outstrips that of climbers … to believe that the vibration made in one’s throat can really keep a being in place on a line between abyss & existence is absurd self-indulgence second only to that of the gods’.

However, give me a break, or a gap, or a crevasse or caesura       can you not read how I’m making some effort at humility?  My title has wilfully refused ‘my’, because the notion of ‘keeping’ balance is daft enough without adding to it the notion that I, me, a selfhood, might ‘own’ balance.

Mark Amongst Angels

Mark, big booted on Tryfan, taking (but not for keepsakes) steps amongst those who have chosen to fly (Nikki Clayton)

It was when A raven at the top of Tryfan’s South Summit said to me, “Watch Your Step” … it was just then-right-now that I knew Offkilter was Is’s swooping.  And I was literally covered in flying ants.  Still, I stayed in balance, momentarily at home in a house of balance, and came down from the mountain … not mad … but not a poet either.  I came down as a person who had been touched by gravity.


Mark Goodwin’s long poem ‘From
From a St Juliot to Beyond a Beeny’ appears in The Footing, an anthology of walking-themed poems published by Longbarrow Press.  Steps, his first full collection with Longbarrow Press, is available here. 

Sylvia Plath’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ appears in her posthumous collection Crossing the Water.


A Piece of my Mind | Mark Goodwin

I’ve been very lucky in my encounters with poetry editors. It concerns me that not all poets have the same experience: by now I’ve heard quite a few tales of publishing horrors. I say I’ve been ‘lucky’, but that’s the wrong word – it’s much more to do with my publishers’ careful consideration, integrity and respect for poetry and poets.

Photograph by Nikki Clayton

Photograph by Nikki Clayton

For years I’ve worked as a community poet, encouraging people of all ages to speak and write creatively. I have also worked with more experienced poets and their souls. For me ‘soul’ is where mind, world and body meet. This meeting can happen in various ways; for example, through making art, or through engaging with other people or creatures, or simply through physically moving through landscapes. However, I believe that one of the most powerful locations for this meeting happens through the mystery called ‘poetics’; and often happens when humans write, read and hear poetry. Both Freud & Jung, and so many others after them, took / take so very seriously the study and care of the psyche. So, for reasons of health, it’s obvious to me (and, fortunately, to many others) that whenever we go near anyone’s poetic sensibilities we must be extremely careful regarding their soul, their psyche, their consciousness at the point where world, body and mind complete. Any negligent or cruel activity near this point can and does cause a huge amount of damage; psychic damage.

Now, this is not to insist poets are frail creatures we must pussyfoot around (indeed many of them can be formidable beasts!). But there is danger for any poet, be they a bullish Byron or a meek novice. Anything that is unrelated to the nearest a poet can get to their ‘true’ poems is dangerously destructive. Any acts that do not hold the poet’s rights to their own poems as sacrosanct are morally wrong. (And this perhaps goes for the poet themselves, denying their own rights.)

So, where does this leave a publisher of poems? How should a poetry publisher proceed to get what they want to publish whilst not following these sentiments: ‘I expect and know that the publisher [of] poetry books will be […] interventionist in approach.’

Well, it’s very simple … if not at all easy!

I believe that the two following statements should be attended to with great care:

No poet should be expected to publish what they do not wish to publish.
No poetry publisher should be expected to publish what they do not wish to publish.

If they wish to publish, this means that poetry publishers have to take risks (they of course do not have to publish, and may decide the risk is too great). If a poet and publisher can negotiate through a relationship that does not have one exercising POWER over the other, then all to the good.

When I was going through the process of publishing my first book with Shearsman I was told by Tony Frazer that I would have to cut the book down – it was too long, would be too expensive for a debutant and so would be bound to sink from the outset. It needed to sell at under ten quid and so it needed fewer pages. Simply as practical as that. He also said (and I can hear his laidback and friendly tones, although it was written in an email): ‘I tend to let the poets get on with deciding how to cut it.’ And the spell was cast – it was my problem, my charge. I was trusted, and the simple ease with which Tony delivered the statement declared to me that Shearsman had no doubts that I would deliver. I then worked very hard, sought further advice from poet friends, and even some not so friendly, and as a result I (under Tony’s spell) improved the book vastly. I hugely enjoyed the whole process! And of course, I grew as a poet.

Here’s Brian Lewis, of Longbarrow Press, another of my publishers:

It’s the editor’s job to be surprised and challenged by the poet and startled out of his/her complacency. I like to be given poems / sequences that won’t easily fit into a readymade format. It demands that I find the necessary resourcefulness and inventiveness to meet the poem on its own terms.

The poets I work with would, of course, expect me to let them know if I felt that something wasn’t working as well as it might (or at all), and to make suggestions where appropriate. This, however, is a conversation between poet and editor. Sometimes the poet will rework the poem; sometimes not. It’s not the job of the editor to demand or impose changes. Similarly, design is a conversation. I recently proposed two cover designs to Alistair Noon (for his two pamphlets). He liked the first one but felt that the second one lacked focus. I went away and designed a new one, which he and I both liked. The pamphlet was better for it. It’s the poet’s pamphlet. Why would I (or any publisher) want to publish something that the poet was unhappy with?

Yes, it is ‘the poet’s pamphlet’. And, thankfully, as a very young poet (attending Hobsbaum-style workshops) I was taken care of by the likes of Rob Hamberger and Michael Tolkien, who so often would say to me: “It’s your poem, Mark.”

Brian’s question at the end of his declaration, about why a publisher would want to publish against a poet’s wishes, begs some answers – because regrettably there are editors who do not hold a poet’s right to their work as sacrosanct.

I enjoy encouraging others to write poetry, but it is tainted for me; by knowing that should I ever help to get someone to become a poet they will very likely end up entering any of various literati-combat zones where their creative rights are far down the agenda.

I used to be a climbing instructor. I had to make sure that people learned and enjoyed themselves whilst at the same time coming to no harm. Mentoring a poet can be far more of a challenge than any climbing or outdoor pursuits session I’ve ever had responsibility for. It is a shame to say that, as a mentor of poets, it is my responsibility to help the poet shed (or at least knowingly engage with) any delusions inflicted upon them by the various cultural machines that construct and project competing notions of what poetry should or should not be. (I have no problems with debated notions of could-bes.) In some cases this obstacle has to be passed before I can get anywhere near my responsibility to help the poet dig out of themselves the only kind of poetry they could’ve ever written. As my ultimate responsibility is towards my mentee’s safety and peace of mind, I feel immensely angry towards people and edifices that threaten a poet’s right to that peace of mind.

Mark Goodwin’s Layers of Un recently appeared from Shearsman Books. An extended interview with Goodwin (conducted by Elaine Aldred) appears here.