Regulars to Number Seven will be aware of the recent publication that Christopher and I have been involved with following the year long Poetry Pin project. Whenever you 'release' a piece of work it is always daunting anticipating what reception it will receive. It also takes awhile for your work to hit a wave of people outside of your network which why this review by Keith Jones was most welcome.
'Hinkley Point– abomination or blessing?' is the vortex to which China recently gave an urgent spin. Everyone has a 'view'. This book of poems and photographs offers less a rational view, more a gathering of insights, intuitions, and revelations. Its drift, though, is unmistakable.
Fifteen poets walked the ancient, magical path between Shurton and the Bristol Channel in Hinkley’s shadow. Season by season they recorded their response to the historic landscape and to the finally unimaginable impact of an enlarged nuclear power industry. Though this book can stand alone it is part of a Poetry Pin Project (http://poetrypin.info/reveal) which invites the reader to 'put on his coat and get down to Shurton Bars' where his mobile phone will reveal each poem in its precise birthplace. Here forty-four photographs run in sensitive counterpoint with thirty-eight poems. Warm images of ripe wheat, red berries, grassy shingle, lichened twigs are immediately felt to be threatened by the cold, dark ubiquity of fence, screen, barbed wire and prohibition signage. The solemn finality of Steve Pledger’s opening quatrain makes the point: 'On land which has kept and sustained us;/By waters that ceaselessly roll;/We’re asserting our claim to dominion/Over forces we cannot control.'
The poets express unease about change, resentment because of exclusion, nostalgia for vanished innocent seaside pleasure and the desecration of distant history. 'Arrogant robots', 'giant insects' suggest the flavour. There is humour: the 'secret sensors' could be taunted with a semi-naked dance; Coleridge’s doomed dream of Kubla Khan is neatly applied to 'A stately power plant...' We even pity the lamenting imprisoned building itself but recoil in horror from a nightmare swim in the nuclear swamp. The first of two composite poems evokes the on-site bullying mayhem; the second gives winter’s harsh response which distils itself for the 'cowering' poets in the sea’s angry, inarticulate 'sssh'.
Poetry Pin has been devised and developed by lead poet Christopher Jelley whose substantial contribution shapes the 'drift.' Greasing Palms sets the initial facile monetary transaction against the cultural background it will come to destroy. Meanwhile, as 'the ‘C’ sleeps in limbo state,' there is summer beauty: '...we count the common blues/The cinnabar moths with their curly cues/The rills of the meadow rich and compact/Ironically provided by this industrial pact.' These treasures are, in another poem 'pocketed…/like badges on lapels.' In yet another, the resulting poems are mere 'Tiny words for paper tombs.' Overtly scornful of dubious science is Edible Temptress, which observes our headlong dash to the death of feeling. In The Final Word this is a death sealed by our communal complicity, because 'We turn our backs on the futures approaching' and 'Choose to ignore the urbanity encroaching.'
Cheerfully hopeful this focused collection is not. Neither, however, is it depressing - energy, integrity and delightful invention make sure of that. Encouraging, except for the cynics, is that this apparently unfettered enterprise was funded by EDF Energy and public money supplied through ARTlife, The West Somerset Arts Consortium. The project, of which this book is only a part, is a significant contribution at a deeply significant time.
Keith Jones October 2015
Publication EXMOOR: The Country Magazine Issue No.74 Spring 2016
Copies of A Walk Down the Rift published by Fly Catcher Press are available direct from Number Seven priced at £10