The only proper way to go on a fossil hunt is in a minibus

She was always glad to be taken along, liked
the dirt, the students’ laughter.
Once, in the pale grey slope of a road cutting,
she found an ammonite, big as a skull.

Having learned that the earth is made of layers
she began to put her feet down differently
so as not to disturb the pattern, dreamed
of shapes vibrating in the seams,

found she was torn between the wish to preserve
and a digging desire to excavate,
cover the landscape in mountains of rubble,
unearth old life or an ancient ore.

She longed for a map that could pinpoint
a likely place to look, spare her
the lung-blighting spade work. Better to lie still
with her ear in the cool grass, listen

to the coal,
to the trilobites singing.

by Ailsa Holland

‘The only proper way to go on a fossil hunt is in a minibus’ is copyright © Ailsa Holland, 2015. It is reprinted from MAP: Poems After William Smith’s Geological Map, edited by Michael McKimm (Worple Press, 2015) by permission of Worple Press

Notes from Worple Press:

Ailsa Holland’s poems have been published in print and online in such places as NutshellAngleInk Sweat & Tears and And Other Poems. She won second prize in the Open Category of the 2014 Hippocrates Award. Under Silk Wood, a Maxonian homage to Under Milk Wood, was written and performed by Ailsa with Jo Bell for Macclesfield’s Barnaby Festival 2014. 

MAP is a new anthology from WorplePress which celebrates the first geological map of Britain, created single-handedly 200 years ago by the engineer and geologist William Smith. Edited by Michael McKimm, this groundbreaking anthology collects new work by over thirty poets inspired by William Smith, his revolutionary map, and the foundation of a science. There are poems in this anthology that tell the story of Smith’s genius and his misfortune; poems about fossil hunting and map making; poems about the drive of the Industrial Revolution and our continuing reliance on fossil fuels. They illustrate not only the vibrancy and variety of contemporary poetry but also poetry’s unique ability to take on uncharted territory with vision: the poems here make Smith’s map anew in moving and surprising ways. You can read more about the anthology on the Worple website.

Worple Press was founded by Peter and Amanda Carpenter in 1997 and publishes 6-8 books a year by new and established poets: collections, pamphlets, works in translation, essays, interviews. Early authors included Iain Sinclair, Joseph Woods, Beverley Bie Brahic, Kevin Jackson and the acclaimed American nature poet Peter Kane Dufault. Recent collections (2014/2015) include Andy Brown’s Exurbia, Isabel Galleymore’s Dazzle Ship, Martyn Crucefix’s A Hatfield Mass, Julian Stannard’s The Street of Perfect Love, and Clive Wilmer’s Urban Pastorals. More information can be found at the publisher’s website, and on Facebook and Twitter

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