It’s the hill from the bottom of Factory Trip
all the way up to Manor Farm –
a Welsh hill, one long steep and steady climb
to nowhere, punctuated by the occasional sharp
or suicidal incline. These
are his feet, his calves – they’re pushing,
pushing against the weight of the side
of beef or lamb in the basket
on the front of his bike. From his uncle’s
butcher’s shop to Manor Farm is a climb so far
if I were doing it now, by car, I’d think
twice. By bike? No way! Yet there
he is, my father, twelve years old, the weight
of the hill on his legs, setting out
once a week all winter, to deliver
the Sunday joint to Old Man Hodge. These
are his feet, the look on his face
as he pushes, pushes. This is the sweat
on his brow. His uncle pays him
in promises, end-of-week scraps, the back
of his hand. It’s silly to know
what I do: my father is doing this
for his mother, his younger brother,
for his own father, who hasn’t worked properly
since he got back from the war. This
is his front wheel, squeaking,
squeaking as he inches up that hill. I know
all the reasons he’s doing this
and I wasn’t even born then, so it’s silly as can be
to know what I do – that he was doing it all –
look at him, pushing and pushing all afternoon – for me.
by Jonathan Edwards
The Poetry Centre has launched the Oxford Brookes International Poetry Competition for 2021! Our judge this year is the fantastic poet Will Harris, and as usual there are two categories: Open and English as an Additional Language. Winners in each category receive £1000 and runners-up, £200. For more details and to enter, please visitour website .
‘My Father Cycling Up a Hill, 1957’ is copyright © Jonathan Edwards, 2021, and is reprinted here from Ten Poems about Work (Candlestick Press, 2021) by permission of Candlestick. You can read more about the collection and buy a copy on the Candlestick website.
Notes from Candlestick Press:
We may not love our jobs, but when we can’t go to work we find that we miss them. This mini-anthology, Ten Poems about Work, reflects on our working lives in all their glorious variety with a delightful mix of nostalgia, celebration and humour. Poet Jonathan Edwards’ eclectic and highly entertaining selection of poems explores our complicated and often surprising relationship with the things we have to do to earn a living. The pamphlet includes poems by Liz Berry, Sujata Bhatt, Gillian Clarke, Jonathan Edwards, Thomas Lux, Helen Mort, John Ormond, Kathryn Simmonds, James Tate and Walt Whitman.
Read more about the collection on the Candlestick website.
Jonathan Edwards’s first collection, My Family and Other Superheroes (Seren, 2014), received the Costa Poetry Award. His second collection, Gen (Seren, 2018), was Wales Book of the Year People’s Choice 2019. He lives in Crosskeys, South Wales.
Candlestick Press is a small, independent press publishing sumptuously produced poetry pamphlets that serve as a wonderful alternative to a greetings card, with matching envelopes and bookmarks left blank for your message. Their subjects include Clouds, Walking, Birds, Home and Kindness. Candlestick Press pamphlets are stocked by chain and independent bookshops, galleries and garden centres nationwide and available to order online. In 2019 Candlestick sold over 100,000 pamphlets, supporting its nominated charities with donations equivalent to around 49% of pre-tax net profit. Since 2008 nearly 600,000 pamphlets have been sold, which means that some six million poems have been read via its publications.
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