Love Song for the Ordnance Survey

Love Song for the Ordnance Survey

            What measure of time is sluicing
through the dappling rings of immortal hills?

            What weight the hollow-hearted burial mounds,
Saxon naves, felled steeples, tribal hill-forts,
ventilation mine-shafts, brick-born water towers,
analogue Cold War transmitters, pillbox viewpoints?

            What radius the boundary arcs,
the stamina of forests’ greened retreat
beaten back at the speckled blots of settlement,
the shaded/sloped river ruts, the symmetry of hangars?

            What current the canals, descending the lock’s silent-shift,
coal boats and Staffordshire china rising in the hulls
and sidelined, quickened by the railways
rising beside motorways, rising onwards? 

            What depth the medicinal baths, restoring spas
sought by new townsfolk, the tumulus of mill races
gone save for great unworking gears turning nothing
in damp summering fields?

            And what volume the settlements,
slumbering in bracketed old-world italics,
inherited after-other names, lost or erased,
the monikers of places declassified?

            What velocity the shifting coastlines
vanishing faster than any paper can skip a heartbeat to?
(and the winter peaks absolved in mists that can neither
be seen or heard, let alone measured?)

            Of all the demarcations multiplied
kept in their latitudinal squares, of each known
and unknown quantity, let us sing
of detail and capacity, the map’s measured love.

by Jane Commane

If you’re a student, don’t forget to enter our Beatin’ the Blues competition, for which we are asking you to respond in poetry to a song by Oxford-based jazz/electronic band Wandering Wires. If you’re one of the winners, we’ll invite you to read your work at a concert alongside the band! For more details, visit our website. The deadline for entries is this Friday!

More news! The Centre has teamed up with IF Oxford Science and Ideas Festival and poet Kate Wakeling to run another poetry workshop for families on 15 April in Oxfordshire County Library. We’ll be encouraging participants to write brand new poems, ready for the  IF Oxford Poetry of Science Competition . So if you know anyone aged 6-16 who is keen on poetry and science, please bring them along! You can sign up here.

Then on 30 April, we’re at Waterstones to host four Canadian poets (Chad Campbell, James Arthur, Stephanie Warner, and Jim Johnstone) and celebrate the recent publication of an exciting new anthology of Canadian poetry. Sign up to attend here.

And on 20 May we are collaborating with the Oxford Centre for Christianity and Culture to bring the acclaimed poet Gillian Allnutt to Oxford – don’t miss her!

Find out more about these and other upcoming events on our Eventbrite page.

‘Love Song for the Ordnance Survey’ is copyright © Jane Commane, 2018. It is reprinted from Assembly Lines (Bloodaxe Books, 2018) by permission of Bloodaxe Books.

Assembly Lines asks what it means to be here and now, in post-industrial towns and cities of the heartlands that are forever on the periphery. From schools and workplaces and lives lived in ‘a different town, just like this’, these poems take a historical perspective on the present day from the ground upwards – whether the geological strata that underpins a ‘dithering island’ or the ever-moving turf under a racehorses’ hooves.

Jane Commane was born in Coventry and lives and works in Warwickshire. Her first full-length collection, Assembly Lines, was published by Bloodaxe in 2018. Her poetry has featured in anthologies including The Best British Poetry 2011 and Lung Jazz: Young British Poets for Oxfam and in numerous magazines. Jane is editor at Nine Arches Press, co-editor of Under the Radar magazine, co-organiser of the Leicester Shindig poetry series, and is co-author (with Jo Bell) of How to Be a Poet, a creative writing handbook and blog series. In 2017 she was awarded a Jerwood Compton Poetry Fellowship. You can hear Jane talk about and read from her book Assembly Lines on the BBC’s ‘Start the Week’ programme here and read more about her on her website.

Bloodaxe Books was founded in Newcastle by Neil Astley in 1978 and has revolutionised poetry publishing in Britain over four decades. Internationally renowned for quality in literature and excellence in book design, our authors and books have won virtually every major literary award given to poetry, from the T.S. Eliot Prize and Pulitzer to the Nobel Prize. And books like the Staying Alive trilogy have broken new ground by opening up contemporary poetry to many thousands of new readers. Find out more about Bloodaxe on the publisher’s website.

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.