While at Grasmere a couple of weeks ago for the launch of Human Tissue, I sat in on a workshop with Ann and Peter Sansom, and bloody brilliant it was too. They are both excellent teachers, encouraging and liberating, and I appreciated their intense commitment to all things poetry. And we did an exercise which took me right back to our time farming in Devon, partly because of how the exercise was framed but also because the landscape of the Lakes coupled with weather — the persistent sheeting rain — reminded me of the South Hams and the challenges of making hay, feeding cattle and just generally being comfortable outside.
So here it is — a bit of writing culminating in a connected haiku. Thanks to all on the workshop, and especially Peter and Ann.
I’d been thinking about Beenleigh, our ten years farming those hundred muddy acres, getting up early every morning in the winter to tractor out a dozen bales of hay, and in the summer to PD the cows, while waiting for a five day window of dry weather to make hay. A thousand pounds a heifer, if we were lucky, but so much out on bills. Trying to make everything meet at the end of the year and still have something for Christmas. The Red Ruby cattle that steamed like engines in the snow. The Castlemilk Moorits with lambs so tiny and dark they looked like miniature deer. The pigs, truculent and sensual, plodding blinkered around their fenced paddock. And the last straw, the event that was just one death too many, our Silver Appleyard runner ducks, discovered by the fox one morning and spread, bloodied, across the front yard.
Andy, get your gun
Nature red in tooth and claw
is on our doorstep