Poetry Archive Now Wordview 2020: Letter from Baldersdale

The wheatears are back in the dale. Wheat from hwit,

Old English for white, ear from aers meaning rump

or backside and why not smile at such ribaldry as the birch

declares a goose-down of leaves, the flare of daffodils plateau.

Chick-chack/fallow-chat/coney-chuck these are a few

of its other names, my favourite – water-poet and true

to its name here comes the beat of rain but not

in the way this summer migrant might know – the flash

of a Senegal monsoon, the Nile’s swell, no it falls as dag,

flist, hemple that soft weather I knew as a child

and have always known I will return to when that coin

is pressed into my hand at the riverside, anorak zipped

to the throat, hood of faux fur soaked to its lining. I hope

its banks will be as crammed with the gold of marsh primrose

as the Balder is now, that I may lift a riffle of trout from its bed

for whatever journey is ahead, that the drum of the snipe

will accompany the splash of the oar. Stop! Seneca says,

striding across bog asphodel and moss, brandishing

his umbrella, his wellies clarty with mud. O what madness

to plot out such far-reaching hopes. Postpone nothing, count

each day as a separate life and then he is gone, a particulate

of mist. A bumble bee fleckers the old bridge, a ewe calls

her lamb, a heron lifts from its reed-bed nest, wings a burst of sun.

Recording provided as part of Poetry Archive Now: Wordview 2020. Used by permission of the author.

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Mary-Jane Holmes

I live in the Durham Dales and am studying for a PhD at Newcastle University. This poem is the third in a series of lockdown poems. I recently won the Bath Novella-in-Flash Prize, was shortlisted for the Beverley International Prize for Literature and longlisted for the UK National Poetry Prize. I won the Bridport Prize for Poetry in 2017. My poetry collection ‘Heliotrope with Matches and Magnifying Glass’ was published by Pindrop Press in 2018.


A special thank you to our WordView 2020 poets.

Chair of the Judging Panel, Imtiaz Dharker, says: “The hundreds of entries we received blew in to the Archive like a breath of pure, unpolluted air from all over the world, revealing something of the time we are living in, some telling it straight, some slant. It was exciting to check in to the Poetry Archive’s Youtube channel every morning and come upon one unexpected voice after another."

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