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.

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