Week 2

You haven’t missed anything, faithful few, but it is week 2 of the lockdown here in Scotland, and I thought I’d share something I’m reading. Reading is prescribed for this period of isolation, yet it proves to be more difficult than I thought to find the right book (always with the exception of the blessed Hilary Mantel, who provided just the book on 5 March). Some people keep a tottering pile of unread books by their beds, I keep them shelved – overflowing the shelves – beside my desk, so that was where I turned. There’s a lot of poetry waiting there. I picked up Ronald Johnson’s The Book of the Green Man, republished by admirable Uniform Books, and this afternoon enjoyed wandering with him in the Lake District (‘I lay on the sublime motions of the grasses…’) and in the footsteps of Francis Kilvert and Henry Vaughan in Wales. Just half the book, winter and spring; it seems too soon to anticipate summer, let alone autumn.

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I loved the way the notes (I have a penchant for notes) took their direction, like the poem itself, from an entry in Thoreau’s diary: ‘These old books suggested a certain fertility, an Ohio soil, as if they were making a humus for new literatures to spring in.’

And that thought, as well as the ‘Winter’ section, set me looking for a plain brown box in which I knew I would find the work of much-missed Elizabeth Burns: her Dorothy Wordsworth’s haiku, lightly edited from DW’s journals, and produced simply beautifully by Julie Johnstone’s Essence Press. So, a happy hour or more, in good company.

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