Keith Hutson poet, Uncategorized

Featured Poet, Keith Hutson

I’ve found that in poetry one often meets friends of friends who become friends.

Keith Hutson has recently become the submissions editor for Hinterland which was set up by Rebecca Bird, who I used to meet up with to talk about poetry when she was studying in Leicester a few years ago.

Rebecca  originally set up Hinterland magazine with Ian Parks, who I had the pleasure of interviewing on here in August 2013. I will always be grateful to Ian for kindly offering to read through the manuscript of my book before it was published. He was very encouraging and made several useful suggestions, not least pointing out that the giant in the film ‘Jason and the Argonauts’ was in fact Talos and not Achilles as I had written in my poem.

Back to Keith. His work has recently featured on the blogs (or cobwebs, as John would have it) of my friends John Foggin and Kim Moore, although I didn’t know that Keith knew either when he said hello to me at a reading in Manchester a few weeks ago and asked if I would like to read at a poetry night he hosts in the Square Chapel in Halifax.

Keith has many strings to his bow, having run a landscape garden business for many years as well as writing scripts for Coronation Street and material for several comedians including the late great Les Dawson.

Keith currently delivers poetry and performance workshops to schools in the Calderdale area as part of a Prince’s Trust initiative. He is a keen runner, and as I mentioned in my last post, Keith and his partner Fiona keep a small herd of sheep on the slopes of the valley above Halifax.

I have only recently discovered Keith’s work but have already become an admirer of his skill and economy. The poems of his that I have read combine acute observation with gentle humour and understated elegance. I look forward to seeing a collection from him in the future. Keith has kindly agreed to let me feature the three excellent poems below.


That chap in the crowd, about to toss
his top hat rafters-high and shout
as, pristine and colossal
under steam, the locomotive
heaves and billows
from the shed: who was he?

Owner, backer, engineer,
or just a gent who had to let astonishment
escape, straight up, before he blew
– buttons, lungs and limbs –
in utter wonder
at the coming of an age?

Previously published in Prole magazine


Half-hidden in the fog,
grey and trembling
like the shredded remnant
of a sail, he bent
to open up his battered case
on grandma’s step.
I gripped her hand.

Shell-shock, or gas, sweetheart,
she told me afterwards.
I always buy from him –
what’s a duster after all
he did for us?
I nodded solemnly –
grateful he’d gone away.

Previously published in The Rialto

 The Gloves Are Off

 Do not be fooled: they’re looking
like a pair of proper loafers
on the bench, but never
do they fully disengage.
The cheeky left may loll, skew-whiff,
across the napping hammer
of the right, but these are bruisers,
built to stay in shape,
perpetually flexed,
ready to fly, put on a show,
and elevate a scrap
to craft.

No one’s watching: slip
the rascals on, and feel them float
your hands up to your head,
like helium. Now you’ll bend a bit,
perform a fidget-jig, call
it your Ali-shuffle, laugh out loud,
then try a jab accompanied
by the customary hmmnph!
and swagger. That’s the way –
get in! You just can’t help yourself!
Soon you’ll want a skipping rope,
a heavy bag, a chin.

Previously published in Hark.



A post reading report and ‘Catching the light’

There was a lovely display of poetry books at the Mappin Street Blackwell’s on Wednesday night. I was warmly welcomed by organisers and hosts Bev Nadin and Ben Wilkinson and had time for a chat with fellow readers and guests before the reading.


Reading poetry to an audience for twenty minuets in a brightly lit and pin-drop quiet bookshop is hard.  Despite my familiarity with my own poems, some of the emotion bottled there will occasionally leap out to catch me by surprise and make reading difficult.  My voice was a bit cracked due to a sore throat, and I was a tad more nervous than usual. I did overcome my nerves to read some newer poems as well as a selection from ‘The Sun Bathers’ and my rehearsed links seemed to work well according to my supportive friends Vicky and Zaffar and Chris.

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to fellow poets Shelley Roche- Jacques, Janet Rogerson and Rory Waterman, all of whom read superbly. I’d thoroughly recommend Janet’s Rialto pamphlet ‘A Bad Influence Girl’ which John McAuliffe accurately describes as a place where ‘the extraordinary meets the recognisable and everyday’  in poems ‘whose timing is bewilderingly confident and assured.’

There is a tremendous two page review of poetry pamphlets in the TLS today entitled ‘Catching The Light’. Andrew McCulloch has written a skilful summary of recent publications, allocating a paragraph each to eighteen pamphlets in what reads as a ‘best of 2012-13’ selection. I’m very pleased that my friends Kim Moore, Suzannah Evans, David Clarke, Ian Parks and  Jodie Hollander ( two of whom have recently been interviewed on this blog) all receive favourable reviews, as Andrew McCulloch  succinctly identifies the main strengths of the various collections .

My own ‘Gopagilla’  is also reviewed with quotations from ‘Zen Garden,’ ‘The River Swimmers’  and ‘La Gioconda.’  I was very happy to read McCulloch’s comment that my poems ‘hold words to the light until they catch it and flash with sudden truth.’

It is a tribute to the production and editorial values of my first publisher, Crystal Clear, that this pamphlet has made it into such esteemed company. Although all the presses can be described as ‘small’ , excellent presses such as Smith Doorstop, Flarestack, Tall Lighthouse and Rack have all been established for some time. The series produced by Crystal Clear Creators was a first venture into pamphlet production.


A short (interim) interview


The series of interviews published on this blog last month proved to be very popular. I really enjoyed thinking of questions and was rewarded with some brilliant and enlightening responses from Matt Merritt, Ian Parks, Rebecca Bird, Maria Taylor and Jodie Hollander. If you haven’t read these yet then do have a look. There are more interviews with contemporary poets and publishers coming up , but while the next batch is cooking I thought I’d post my own brief responses to two questions I was asked yesterday by my publisher’s publicity officer, Michelle Rose.  I’ve lengthened my responses slightly for this post.
Michelle’s  questions were

 Could you tell me about your collection? What inspired it? What are your influences?
This is my first full collection so it contains a selection from all the poems that I’d written up to the date I had to submit the manuscript to the printer. I started seriously focusing on poetry about eight years ago. When I say focusing, I mean reading and writing and re-drafting to the point of obsession. Prior to that I had always written the odd poem, but I hadn’t read a great deal and I was completely unaware of the contemporary poetry scene or the world of small magazines. Then in 2009 I sent my first poems out. One of the first I sent was published by the magazine The Rialto, another was chosen for publication in an online Guardian work shop.  Another came third in the Ledbury Poetry prize.

I started going to readings and meeting people, some of whom later became my friends.  I kept on submitting poems and having a number published. In 2011 I felt I had enough for a pamphlet. This seemed the next logical step so I entered and was fortunate to win the Crystal Clear Pamphlet competition. Part of the prize was getting editorial advice from the poet Wayne Burrows.
Wayne helped me weed out the weaker poems and tighten up the stronger ones.

The pamphlet got good reviews, and John Lucas of Shoestring Press wrote to tell me he had enjoyed the collection and to ask if I had any more work as he would like to publish a full collection. I was delighted, and began the process of looking at my work again and selecting possible poems.

I rewrote several and received astute advice from John and from a couple of poetry friends. I was writing a lot of new poems at the time I was assembling the manuscript, so quite a few of those got in, including the title poem, The Sun Bathers.  It was written on a train ride back from Sheffield. I’d wondered into the Graves Gallery and found an exhibition of the work of the artist Leonard Beaumont.  I bought a post card of one of his images it’s a 1932 lino cut in the Vortic style. It’s of two girls on a beach and it’s called ‘Sun Bathers.’  The poem was inspired by that image: it speculates on who these girls might be, how their parent’s lives might have been disrupted or destroyed by war and the way in which their own lives will soon be disrupted by another war. One theme of my writing has always been concerned with the impact on individuals of war.

Other poems are inspired by an interest in nature and trying to capture some of its transience and beauty. Also, with some time distance between my time as a Coronary Care nurse and the present,  I was able to write one or two poems about my experiences there. Other poems are about my family and others about historical figures. Some are vivid childhood recollections of emotion. There is a short sequence of poems about Leonardo Da Vinci which comes from a much longer sequence. These are the poems I decided to keep.
I had another ten or twenty new poems I liked, but was advised to keep these for a second book, which was good advice. It’s great to have some new poems in the bag so to speak, and not to feel I’m starting from scratch.

As for influences on my poetry, I think I’ve assimilated ideas from everywhere including film, music, art, novels. I admire lots of poets but it is very hard to say how directly my own work has been influenced.  Other people may find it easier to identify similarities between my work and that of other poets. I’ve had some very flattering comparisons made; I’ve been delighted that one or two people have mentioned Edward Thomas. But I’ve only read a few poems by Thomas so I don’t know if he has influenced me directly.  The poets I enjoy tend to display mastery of control and balance and a lack of excess or extraneous words.  A list would have to include Seamus Heaney, Ted Hughes, Paul Farley, Robin Robertson, Jean Sprackland, Dannie Abse. I’m also a fan of Clare Pollard, Kim Moore and Maria Taylor, all for different reasons.

The Sun Bathers will be published in November 2013.


Ian Parks. It’s always a good time to be a poet…



Ian Parks.

Described by Chiron Review as ‘the finest love poet of his generation’, Ian Parks was born in 1959 in Mexborough, South Yorkshire. His first collection of poems, Gargoyles in Winter was published in 1986. Other collections include A Climb Through Altered Landscapes (1998), Shell Island ( 2006), The Cage (2008), Love Poems 1979-2009 (2009) The Landing Stage ( 2010) and The Exile’s House (2012).  His translations of poems by Constantine Cavafy, The Cavafy Variations, is a Poetry Book Society Choice for 2013.

Ian  was a 2012 writer in residence at Gladstone’s Library and is currently the RLF Writing Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester. His anthology “Versions of the North: Contemporary Yorkshire Poetry” is published by Five Leaves.

Hello Ian.  Knowing that you are originally from a Yorkshire mining village, I wondered when you feel your life as a poet began. I also wonder if there was any conflict between the societal norms and aspirations of your upbringing and your early interest in poetry.

I can’t remember a time when I didn’t want to be a poet. The biographical note at the back of Peter Knaggs’ The Hull Connection anthology describes me, bizarrely, as a helicopter pilot – and once, when the poems dried up for a long period I flirted briefly with the idea of becoming an ice-cream salesman – but poetry has always been my calling. I didn’t really think of myself as a poet though until people started to refer to me as such, around the time of the publication of my fist collection, Gargoyles in Winter, in 1986.

Growing up in Mexborough had a profound effect on me. There was a clear division between the industrial and the pastoral in the form of a ferry that took you across the river, away from the pits and into the open country that surrounded the town. There were other, more profound divisions too. All the males in Mexborough were expected to follow their fathers down the pit. Even though I was socialised into the presiding attitudes of working class culture – and mining culture in particular – I knew that wanting to be a poet would bring me into conflict with that. Even though my father was violently opposed to me following such a path he was, paradoxically, partially responsible for it. There weren’t many books in our house; but my father had learned reams of poetry by rote and school and used to recite it aloud around the house. It was my first exposure to poetry. I’ve since come to realise that like many working class people, my father loved poetry, but felt it couldn’t be written by or for working people. I was born in the front room of the house where I’ve returned to live and only recently discovered that it used to be used as the registry office for the town and that queues of widows lined the street outside to register the deaths of their men folk down the mines. That had a profound effect on me which I tried to articulate in Registry of Births and Deaths. The poet Rory Waterman is preparing a paper on my poetry and its roots so perhaps I should leave it to him to say more.

 Thanks Ian. I think I’m right in saying that you’ve been a published poet all your adult life. Could you say a little about your motivation to write? Do you think this has altered in any way since you first were published?

My first poem was published in Poetry Review when I was twenty so yes, you could say that I’ve been a published poet for that long. My motivation to write has always been to communicate. I’m not one of those poets who, stranded on a desert island with no hope of rescue, would carry on writing poetry. When a young poet starts out writing they tend to have – for obvious reasons – no clear idea of their audience. They might have an ideal audience in mind but not an actual one. The more a poet is published and the more feedback they get in the way of individuals reading their work, reviews, of the attention of critics and academics. I think this sense of an audience shapes a poet, perhaps in ways they’re not immediately aware of. Although, in some respects, that idea of an ideal audience which I started out with has never left me, it’s been qualified by the response of a real audience who are often (especially at poetry readings) quite vocal about their opinions of my work! I’ve never been a career poet: that is, I’ve never tried to follow the prescribed path laid down for those who want to be successful in the poetry world – whatever that is. Rather, I’ve followed my instincts, my heart, and my inner ear, allowing poetry to lead me. And it’s led me to some interesting places…

Over the years you have worked in many educational environments. I wonder if the interactions you’ve had with students helps keep your poetry fresh and exciting, as well as providing an outlet for your mentoring skills and an opportunity to pass on what you have learned of your craft.

Interesting question. And I’m aware that my answer might appear controversial with the current proliferation of creative writing courses at all levels. To put it simply I feel very strongly that poetry, like all art forms, is a gift, it can be enhanced by guidance and expertise, certain technical aspects can be taught. But the spirit of it can’t be replicated. For instance, you can write me a technically perfect sonnet but that doesn’t make it a poem.

What a good creative writing course can do is provide the aspirant poet with an audience of like-minded individuals, the experience of the tutors, and some guidance as to what pitfalls to avoid and what to read. But it can’t make you into a poet. To do that, the person has to bring some of it with them. I also believe that most poets will go on to succeed whether or not they do a degree in it. If my work is kept fresh and exciting – and it’s good of you to say that it is – then it’s through contact with other poets irrespective of whether they’re connected to a university or not. Poets need each other. Everything I’ve learned I’ve learned from other poets either from reading them or knowing them personally. And I learn from younger poets too. There are three exceptional young poets I’m mentoring informally and I learn more from them than they realise.

Could you mention a few favourite poets and perhaps talk about why you admire them?

The list keeps growing and changing. I would always say Thomas Hardy. Hardy has received the recognition due to him as a novelist but only recently is his gift as a poet being fully recognised. I think he’s a great poet. His range might be narrow but his technical skills are remarkable and he is amazingly consistent. Over a thousand poems he remains engaging, piercing, and accessible. He addresses the human condition without exaggeration or embellishment. Another quiet voice, and one I’m drawn to deeply, is Edward Thomas. Again, Thomas has suffered by being regarded as primarily a nature poet but he’s much, much more than that, highlighting as he does certain psychological states and finding the perfect image for them. Robert Graves taught me how to write love poems. Dorothy Parker shows how light verse can be piercingly effective. W. H. Auden manages to write dazzling political poems that are not tethered to the period – the 1930’s – in which they were produced. Thom Gunn shows what can be done with metre, syllabic, and free verse. Recently I’m reading Division Street, the first full collection by the remarkable Helen Mort and thinking that the future of poetry is in safe and capable hands.

What a wonderful thing to say! I’m sure Helen will be very pleased.

Do you feel any obligation to produce political poems? I think most poets would consider it a difficult thing to do successfully. Do you feel there are any specific elements which lead to a successful political poem?

I do feel obliged to write political poetry, yes. And I agree that it’s a difficult thing to do. As I said in an interview with Jody Porter for The Morning Star ‘I was radicalised from birth’ so there’s never been any lack of motivation. A young writer, approaching the black American Civil War abolitionist Frederick Douglas on his death-bed, asked him what he should do with his life. Douglas reply to ‘agitate, agitate, agitate’ has always struck a chord with me and I’ve been active on the radical left all my life, particularly during the Great Miner’s Strike of 1984-85. Having said that, I resisted the idea of writing my own political poetry for a long time, partly because of the difficulties attendant on it and partly because I was pretty involved in writing love poetry. I knew that Auden had shown the way, writing poetry out of the political environment of the time and raising public awareness of the rise of fascism in Europe; and I knew he’d done that without being too specific and in such a way that the poems, though rooted in the period, were politically timeless. What changed everything for me was discovering Chartist poetry for the first time. The Chartists were the first mass radical working class movement, active in the middle years of the nineteenth century. I was surprised, as most people are, to discover how important poetry was to them as individuals and to the movement as a whole… and I hope my forthcoming anthology The Voice of the People: Chartist Poetry 1838-48 will make those poems more accessible. I almost felt it as a duty then to try and give voice to political issues. For personal, painful reasons I’d resisted writing about the miner’s strike but suddenly the floodgates opened and I was able to revisit that period in poetry, and still am. There’s a difference between poetry and polemics but poetry is, as communication, political in its very nature.

Ted Hughes spent the formative years in Mexborough although this fact seems to be missing from the popular biographies. I’ve heard you quote Hughes as saying ‘Mexborough made me’. What do you think Hughes meant when he said this?

Hughes isn’t the only poet to come from Mexborough. Harold Massingham who died last year was of the same generation although his work has been overshadowed by that of Hughes. It’s strange that the formative years of a major poet, the years in which he wrote his first poems, should be so effectively airbrushed from the official biography. Thankfully, the poet Steve Ely, is currently working on a book about those missing years and the connection between Ted Hughes and Mexborough. I think this will be a very important study for lots of reasons. When Ted wrote to his sister saying ‘Mexborough made me’ I think he was referring to the environment and particularly the encouragement of his teacher John Fisher who quickly recognised Hughes’ talent and provided the young poet with a role model, a figure he could emulate. The countryside around Mexborough became an escape route for Hughes from the mining town, a place where he could let his imagination work. I’m pleased we’ve just got around to unveiling a plaque to Hughes in Mexborough; more pleased by the ground-breaking work being done by Steve Ely. Hughes isn’t my favourite poet, and in some ways I’ve had to find ways of getting around him in order to write myself. But knowing he’d lived in Mexborough and written out of the same landscape and world view was very inspiring to me as I was growing up and trying to find my own feet as a poet.

Casting your eye back over the poetry scene of scenes do you believe this to be, as some have suggested ‘a good time to be a poet’? What advice, if any, would you give to a younger poet?

It’s always a good time to be a poet. We hear, at the same time, of a poetry boom and a poetry bust but really these are just ways in which the media negotiates and reports on something they don’t, fundamentally, understand. When the Poetry Society was threatened with closure because of the reduction in Arts council Funding I heard lots of people in poetry circles saying ‘what will happen to poetry now?’ as if the poetry Society and poetry were the same thing, as if they were intimately connected. Don’t get me wrong. The Poetry Society does a good job in raising the awareness of poetry but it shouldn’t be confused with the poetry ‘community’ at large. Poetry is bigger than any organisation that seeks to contain or represent it. It is from and of the people. I often get asked by young poets to give them advice and they’re often disappointed by it. I would suggest that they learn to expect rejection. Not to learn to deal with it but learn to expect it. The world, by and large, is not a conducive place in which a poet can be and operate. And especially so in a time of rising capitalism and the appropriation of poetic language by the marketplace. So be ready for a struggle. The best of the younger poets have no illusions. Rebecca Bird, a singularly exciting new talent, is producing poetry of integrity and quality in her early twenties without the slightest regard for fashion or approbation from the ‘right’ places. A talent to watch. So yes, a good time for poetry but not for the reasons you might think. Thanks for the perceptive questions, Roy. They had me chewing my pencil…

It’s been an absolute pleasure listening to your answers Ian. Thank you very much.
A previously unpublished poem by Ian Parks.

Registry of Births and Deaths 

They queued for hours outside my door
to register the deaths of men –
of husbands, fathers, brothers, sons
who died in some disaster underground:
crushed when seams collapsed, encasing them
or choked inhaling poisonous fumes.

My front room used to be the office where
those girls and women in grey shawls
offered small comfort, held back tears,
a drop of ink and scraping pen
reducing flesh and blood to dates and names.
Of infants also, born to coal and dust;

the deaths of them, the deep successive tides.
At night I blink back darkness in my bed,
lie sleepless listening to the timeless air.
The town itself is riddled and subsides,
the barefoot shuffling of their tread
a tremor running through the downstairs rooms.


Versions of the North

Versions of the North. Book Cover

The contemporary poetry anthology seems to be in rude good health. There are anthologies based on ‘new generations’ of poets, poets under thirty,  anthologies to showcase or create a school or genre. Others, like the Forward, gather prize winners and well established poets. Still others try to counterbalance these by  presenting the ‘best’ poems from small presses in any given year; many are enjoyable and some are useful, for example, in bringing new voices to the fore.

But few feel ‘necessary’, or give the impression of being able to stand the test of time. Fewer still could be given out in a pub, to be understood and enjoyed by the recipients. I suspect that ‘Versions of The North’ could.

Subtitled ‘contemporary Yorkshire poetry’, this is an anthology from Five Leaves Press edited by Ian Parks. Paradoxically, given its stated geographical borders, the one hundred and forty-seven pages of poems cover a huge variety of themes and gather a multiplicity of voices to celebrate and reflect upon the physical, historical, political, geographical and emotional landscapes of the north of England.

This is a generous book in more ways than one. Ian Parks defines Yorkshire Poetry in the introduction as ‘poetry written by poets with a strong connection to Yorkshire either by birth or close association.’

Major strengths are that poems by deceased poets and sit alongside work by rising stars like Helen Mort and David Tait, and that the ‘celebrated’ sit beside the ‘overlooked’ or less well know.  A democratic accessibility is at the heart of this collection; I was originally going to title this review ‘A new republic of the head and heart,’ a line borrowed and adapted from a poem by Ian Parks.

But the inclusively and accessibility of this collection doesn’t mean the book isn’t full of surprise, confrontation, celebration, grief, humour and moments of astonishing beauty.

The opener is the wonderfully inventive and assured ‘Frost-Gods’ by the late Harold Massingham. Within three lines the reader is located in a landscape where there is ‘Frost-flack over these collieries.’ We are also located in language at once direct and inventive, no-nonsense and dour, exhilaratingly vivacious and to quote the poem, ‘energied with Reverie.’  There is a self-knowing and perhaps humorously deployed line about surveying a post industrial landscape, and it might stand for much of what this book is about ; ‘I look it over, warming/ To that grim aura:’

Throughout the collection I encountered, and warmed to, the geography of old-mill workings and slag heaps, the ghosts of heavy industry, the echo and sometimes physical reminders of  territorial and political battles, the landscapes of moors and crags as well as great cathedrals, tea shops, rivers and the sea, all described by a spectrum of distinctively individual but collectively ‘northern’ voices.

These lines from Maurice Rutherford’s ‘Outlook on Monday’ put me in mind of Les Dawson’s housewife in a pinafore, arms folded, alert and primed for gossip.
‘A neighbour swabs her doorstep/the clothesline a farcical can-can/incontinence knickers in chorus/high-kicking out of time.’ Dawson’s characters were archetypes, but they were recognisable and loveable ones, and his portrayal of stereotypes was never malicious. The same can be said of the many characters that inhabit this book.

George Kendrick finds cause to celebrate a bicycle tyre in a tree, and this highlights a key aspect of this collection, namely a lack of obscurity, an absence of the deliberately ‘clever’, the flashy or brash. Most of, if not all the poems, are written using ‘everyday’ language, and many refuse to be tided or clipped into neatness, but maintain the expansiveness of real speech; perhaps Les Murray’s antipodean ‘Quality of Sprawl’ has its equivalent in northern England. This anthology serves to remind the reader how richly expressive and elegant everyday English can be.

Together with explorations of the seemingly ordinary, there is much bravery
in dealing with big themes. This anthology doesn’t shy away from conflict, whether it is the bitter confrontation of the miner’s strike or issues of identity, class and race.
Nor is there any trace of a simple romantic view of long gone industries. Instead there is ambiguity in poems which deal with this loss, an acknowledgement that whilst these industries provided livelihoods and a sense of community, they also laid scars across the land and the lives of many of its inhabitants.

Glyn Hughes ‘Rock Rose’ is a celebration of the reclamation of the land by nature;
‘Hammer and Chisel, ledger and pen,/cradle and loom are rested/ hewn stone is overgrown or sweetened.’

Those who were lucky enough to have known the late Ann Atkinson will be particularly moved by her poem ‘Petrifying Well,’ in which Ann seems to be expressing acknowledgement of the passing of all things.

There are far too many standout poems to mention here, but the delightful invention and controlled rage and humour of Ian Duhig is well represented by his five poems, as is the masterful control of Pat Borthwick in ‘It’s Only’, a tour de force in which she sardonically shines light on the dull waters of the Humber and uncovers a dinosaur’s scaphoid (or does she?)among the brickwork and slack on the foreshore.
There is a lot of weather in this book; inevitably rain and snow, but also sunshine, notably in Jules Smith’s poem ‘The Barefoot Bride’.

Elsewhere Ann Sansom sings the hymn of a humble slug, while Paul Mills captures the power of nature on a different scale in ‘At the Lake House’ ; ‘Stronger than love/ is stone’s connection with water./Anchored and fluid among the peaks/ they sculpt each other with force, with likeness, with nearness’. Another stand out poem is Graham Hamilton’s heartbreakingly beautiful tale of salmon and his reflection of changes in the lives of the men who fish and fished them.

I know that  editor Ian Parks had to persuaded into including two of his own poems by a delegation of the anthologised poets. This comes as no surprise since self-promotion doesn’t seem to be Ian’s priority.  But his own ‘Strikebreakers’ is an essential part of the picture, containing a line which conjures a state of civil war in which ‘ the mounted men broke through’. In this remembrance  there is a chilling sense of the inescapable and inevitable legacy of such a bitter division and conflict. This is followed by Ed Reiss biblical take on un-forgiven scabs. In different ways both poems perform the difficult task of describing the detail and legacy of such battles  without becoming overtly polemical.

This is not a mono-cultural  anthology; Liz Cashdan, Debjani  Chatterjee and Ian Duhig among others remind us of the history of migration and the variety of Yorkshire voices and experiences. But I would have liked to see a few more voices springing from differing ethnic backgrounds. Perhaps with the passage of time these voices might come to the fore. This small point aside, Ian Parks has selected and sequenced these poems to create an enduring map of a past and present Yorkshire as seen and described by several generations of its children.  That he has succeeded in his ambition is testament to the sheer quality and variety of the poems.

You can read an interview with Ian Parks on this anthology here.
‘Versions of the North’ is available from Five Leaves Press.