Poetry


Poet John Wedgwood Clarke was commissioned as part of the Inspiring Views project to create poetry inspired by the views from the Greensand Way he comments;

“‘It’s been a pleasure to discover and explore a landscape that has so powerfully shaped, and been shaped by, human activity. The Surrey Hills are as full of voices as they are trees. Through this poem sequence, I’ve tried to recreate something of the atmosphere of each place, both in their familiarity and their haunting strangeness. This has involved walking and cycling the Greensand Way and making lots of notes, and by researching the history of each place and talking to people who love them. The poems have grown out of this rich terrain of generously shared information and insight.’

John has engaged with the local community, coming to stay with artists in the local areas in June and July. He interacted with local walkers and with members of the Surrey Archaeology Society which gave him a greater knowledge of the area. He was commissioned to create poetry inspired by the following five viewpoints:

Holmbury Hill - Poem by John Wedgwood Clarke

Holmbury Hill

The heathland earth enmeshes secret glass, come see through this
cyclists flicker and echo down braided greensand paths,
their hunt in the forest ripping new wounds
in land enriched by scars. Lightening, flash-bulb blue,

ghosts the moment, lost voices alive in birch and oak,
at hide-and-seek inside the fort’s enclosure.
A grasshopper’s shed skin clings to a stalk — what’s flown,
flies here still, its breath a maze of insect shadows.

Reynards Hill - Poem by John Wedgwood Clarke

Reynards Hill

Thunder earths the sky and utters a Roman hound called Gibson,
a dog with momentum, somewhere to go
with the here that accompanies him into the woods,
present as the young man seeking a brink for his future.

The woods of the Weald wander beneath their many names,
gates and fences as nothing to what cannot be owned
up here, the earth raw from unspeakable needs
to view our journey in this ancient moment’s gaze —

Winterfold - Poem by John Wedgwood Clarke

Winterfold

Sit here with me and listen to the foxgloves speaking all at once.
Gravel wakes. Engine off. Our latest shy lovers
stage their special moment. So last century, J 4 M
4 EVA thicken and fold in a heart’s enclosure

carved into the scorched oak’s bark, beneath whose spreading
empty boughs a car’s shadow stains the grass
with puddled alloys, glass and char. Doors slam, gravel shoots.
The space we frame with phones looks everywhere at once.

Hascombe Hill - Poem by John Wedgwood Clarke

Hascombe Hill

The green nave opens — there’s too much to see!
Look to the roots of a wind-felled tree, earth’s rose window,
lick your upper-lip’s salt, your body a wandering land
of cwyms and hurt-covered scarps, a honeypot for flies.

How the near-at-hand bears more in all this meeting space —
a dragonfly, domed in vision, leaps and nods at invisible prey,
its moment’s sky-mark a moment away
from the Heinkel’s blue silence billowing in the trees.

Gibbet Hill - Poem by John Wedgwood Clarke

Gibbet Hill

The mist like spiked punch in a bowl, the Devil like a reason
for this sinkhole void, his ground hurled up to earth
Thor’s thunderbolts, giving way like a trapdoor
under peddling corpses shrouded in a boundless prospect.

Light still shudders here, above the tunnel, like lying on a white line
down the centre of an empty road, like charabanc lovers
the greensand guides into broom and heather,
narrow sprung wounds where earth plunges skyward.

He also worked with children from Peaslake Free School and had fun exploring words with them, incorporating their phrases into a poem about the Hurtwood.

Are their Hurts in the Hurtwood - Poem created by John & children from Peaslake Free School

Are their Hurts in the Hurtwood

I’ve a hurt in my mouth but I don’t need the dentist.
It’s purply sweet, like a blueberry, but it’s a hurt.
No, it doesn’t bleed for ten hours like the hurt on my knee.
It’s different altogether, come and see.

At the edge of the Hurtwood, where the hurts grow low,
let’s listen for the dog and its bark like a drill.
Gentle birds dance with recorders and flutes,
there’s cockerel like a dog, and twigs snap, snap, snapping.

In the meadow by the Hurtwood there’s spidery moss,
a maggot like a finger crawls across my hand.
There’s a golfball in the grass like a round beehive,
or is it a hard mushroom, or a cold boiled egg?

The flowers in the meadow are tiny blues and yellows
and we all like our butter — the Hurtwood tells us so.
If you look very closely and go deep in the grass
there’s a baby spiderweb. Some say it is the size

of a toddler’s thumb, others that its diamond dust,
like stars in a green night, still others, it’s a crown
the night left behind. You can’t pick it up, it’s for our eyes only,
like the little wand beside it with the dusty yellow end.

Would the Hurtwood hurt you with it purply hurts?
I can’t answer that, it depends how you go.
There are badgers and foxes, cats, deer and adders,
and deep in the heart of the Hurtwood there’s a bull!

So let’s go to the Hurtwood and mind how we go there.
I’m bringing Monty, she’s bringing Stanley,
he’s bringing Mon-Mon and she’s bringing Ellie,
all the fruit of the world, and chocolate bars and beer.

And when we’ve lit our fire and we’re all gathered round
we’ll magnify the little things and clash with our sticks,
then on with our jetpacks and up through the canopy,
to see our little homes in the green clouds of Surrey.

Hear the poet recite the ‘Greensand Way’ poem…

About the Poet
poet

John Wedgwood Clarke is a poet, prose writer, and lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Hull. He regularly collaborates with scientists and artists on collaborative projects and has been a Leverhulme Artist in Residence at the University of Hull’s Marine Biology Department. His first collection Ghost Pot was described as a ‘Masterpiece that rewards continuous rereading’ by Bernard O’Donoghue, and his poems have received national and international awards and prizes. His new collection ‘Dump Songs’ explores landfill sites and waste management and will be published in May 2017.

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