When Beasts Most Graze


left their houses weeping and became unemployed
and finally… died in poverty
and so ended their days

(Commission of Inquiry Returns, 1517)

Tenant at Will, Wharram Percy (c.1500):

They found me at Milndam, at the fish pond,
the landmaster’s men. they said
Leave your nets, William. We’re fishers of men.
Come with us to the Lord’s house. Come,
and receive the Word.
                                                     I followed,

sharp as a fox out of cover. Squire Hilton
hung like a cloud on his front step.
His smile axed at my heart.
He gave me till Michaelmas –
‘Tell the whole village the same.’

I looked up to the furlongs, the skyline
of corn. I heard children laugh
by the stream. I turned from his gate.
For Hilton a sheep-run.
For the cottar death with the plough.

Our young men wanted to fight, but
I counselled acceptance: To sever one stoat
will summon the pack. We have no rights here,
leave behind little. Our tears
like our toil will fade into the land…

We gathered below Town Field.
Swallows twitched from the church tower,
bellied the shallows. Next year
they’ll nest in the houses, singing
to idle spindles and empty hearths.

by Ian Taylor

This Friday lunchtime (24th November) from 12-1pm, join us at the launch of Steven Matthews’ new critical/creative book Ceaseless Music, a response to Wordsworth’s The Prelude.Through a series of poetic responses and critical reflections, Ceaseless Music explores the afterlives of Wordsworth’s landmark autobiographical poem in literature, philosophy and life writing, together with the insights it can offer into the writing of poetry today. Steven will be reading from the book in the Special Collections room in the basement of the Main Library, John Henry Brookes Building, where he will be joined by Paul Whitty who will be playing some of the sound recordings of the Lake District he made to accompany the book. All are welcome!

On Friday evening from 6.30-8pm at Oxford Brookes, the Poetry Centre presents its annual International Poetry Competition Awards event, featuring readings by the winning and shortlisted poets and the judge, Helen Mort. You can find more details on our website.

This first section of ‘When Beasts Most Graze’ is copyright © Ian Taylor, 2017. It is reprinted from Dusk (Smokestack Books, 2017) by permission of Smokestack.

Notes from Smokestack:

Ian Taylor has been writing about the lost landscapes of the North for over forty years – old earthworks, ruined churches, derelict mineworkings, Neolithic barrows and deserted villages. Bringing together the best of this work in a single volume, Dusk is a book about enclosure, famine and deforestation, about bleak moorlands, sunken roads, nettles and cobwebs. Exploring between the pages of history, superstition, myth and the ‘threadbare cloak of folk tradition’, Taylor listens to the drovers, peat-cutters, ironstone miners, seasonal labourers, landless farmers and tramps in whose ‘hollow voice of loss’ he hears a renegade and still undefeated Albion, like a fox running from the ‘cleanshaven faces and privileged profiles’ of the Hunt, the Green Man still dancing in the trees. You can read more about Dusk on the Smokestack website.

I.P. Taylor was born in Shipley, West Yorkshire. He has been a forestry operative, a market gardener, a farm worker, a drystone waller and a millhand. Winner of the Stroud Festival international poetry competition and the Poetry Society’s Greenwood Prize, his publications include A Poetry Quintet, The Grip, The Passion, The HollowPlaces and Killers. He lives in York.

Smokestack is an independent publisher of radical and unconventional poetry run by Andy Croft. Smokestack aims to keep open a space for what is left of the English radical poetic tradition in the twenty-first century. Smokestack champions poets who are unfashionable, radical, left-field and working a long way from the metropolitan centres of cultural authority. Smokestack is interested in the World as well as the Word; believes that poetry is a part of and not apart from society; argues that if poetry does not belong to everyone it is not poetry. Smokestack’s list includes books by John Berger, Michael Rosen, Katrina Porteous, Ian McMillan, Steve Ely, Bertolt Brecht (Germany), Gustavo Pereira (Venezuela), Heinrich Heine (Germany), Andras Mezei (Hungary), Yiannis Ritsos (Greece) and Victor Jara (Chile). You can find Smokestack on Facebook and on Twitter.

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.

About cows

They shit a lot and at first it is a warm pat
ridged with raised circles as it dries.
Water stopped in its tracks or a viscous jelly
hardening from the outside in.
I think of dying in a pool of shite,
the one my mother meant –
Go take a running leap in the slurry pit for all I care.
We had lost three cats that summer.
Seeing them stiffed, legs rigid and shining
made an art of death.
But this was to be about cows,
their lumbering walk to the gap to be milked
as if they know more together than apart.
They can smell a stream of fresh water from a mile.
They can hear grass growing under the bull.
They hold time in their four stomachs, chewing it down
till the evening milking, feeling the hours move on through.
They do not miss the calves they have had taken.
No attachment is apparent in three days.
Perhaps like the farmer in a unit of money,
they count on exchange.
Cows know their own patch but they’ll stray to graze another’s.
Swung towards the hedge in rain, heads dripping,
tail swatch taking a rest from flies.
Apparently rural but worldly wise, cows know that loss
is our only measure, expellation a passing pleasure.

by Siobhán Campbell

News from the Centre: this Thursday we are delighted to welcome this week’s poet, Siobhán Campbell, to Oxford to read with Kate Clanchy as part of the Poetry Centre’s reading series. Everyone is very welcome to hear two internationally-acclaimed writers. The reading takes place at the Society Café, St. Michael’s Street, Oxford, from 7-9pm. Tickets (£4) can be bought on the door or via the Brookes Shop.

Tomorrow (Wednesday), Oxford Writers’ House presents ‘Writing for Audio Drama and Podcasting: an Evening with Robert Valentine and Liz Campbell’. All are welcome, but places are limited! Find out more and sign up here

On Saturday 11 November, don’t miss an Armistice Day reading with Adnan Al-Sayegh, Jenny Lewis, Peter King & Jude Cowan Montague, together with the launch of Seeds of Bullets, a book on Adnan’s work. Albion Beatnik Bookshop, Oxford, 7.30pm.

Finally, the Woodstock Poetry Festival runs from 10-12 November. A very impressive programme includes readings by the likes of Douglas Dunn and Anne Stevenson. More details here.

‘About cows’ is copyright © Siobhán Campbell, 2017, and reprinted from Heat Signature by permission of Seren Books.

Notes from Seren:

Siobhán Campbell was born in Ireland and has lived in Dublin and London as well as San Francisco and Washington DC. Widely published in the USA and UK, she has won awards in the National Poetry Competition, the Troubadour International Poetry Competition, the Templar Poetry Prize and most recently was awarded the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Prize (Open category). She has an MA from the University College Dublin, a PhD from Lancaster University and has pursued postgraduate study at NYU and the New School in New York. She joined the Open University Department of English from Kingston University London where she was Associate Professor of English and Creative Writing and Director of the MFA in Creative Writing. Heat Signature is her fifth collection of poems, and you can read more about the book on the Seren website. Find out more about Siobhán’s work on her website and follow her on Twitter.

Seren has been publishing poetry for 35 years. We are an independent publisher specialising in English-language writing from Wales. Seren’s wide-ranging list includes fiction, translation, biography, art and history. Seren’s authors are shortlisted for – and win – major literary prizes across Britain and America, including the 2014 Costa Poetry Prize (for Jonathan Edwards’ My Family and Other Superheroes). Amy Wack has been Seren’s Poetry Editor for more than 20 years. You can find more details about Seren on the publisher’s website and follow Seren on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright information: please note that the copyrights of all the poems displayed on the website and sent out on the mailing list are held by the respective authors, translators or estates, and no work should be reproduced without first gaining permission from the individual publishers.