To mark the publication day of his Vapour Trails: Reviews and Essays on Poetry (Shoestring Press), Wild Court is featuring four new poems by John Greening. The first three are from an extended sequence about the historic county of Huntingdonshire, where he lives.
Vapour Trails is a survey of modern poetry, gathering reviews commissioned by the TLS and other journals over the course of 20 years, and featuring several new essays. It takes in over 50 poets, from Elizabeth Bishop to John Berryman, Thom Gunn to Gerđur Kristný, Anne Stevenson to RS Thomas. Copies are available to purchase here.
from Huntingdonshire Codices
Typing up on the top floor of the Tudor castle I used to teach in, typing pages of old verse for some collection I dreamt of, trying to pass the late evening shift’s long final hour, typing on a better computer than mine, hoping to store the text on its hard-drive. One page more of the dozens, it’s a sestina: ‘For the Six Wives’, elaborate piece of artifice compressing their lives into six verses (and an envoi). No one believes this place where she died is really haunted, but typing away I reached the passage where I’d written about the day of Catherine’s funeral, how Anne Boleyn... and, as I say, there are no ghosts. But at the line, the word, ‘Anne’, the computer crashed. I typed it again. It crashed, and then the poem simply vanished. I exited. I ran.
The Kimbolton Hoard is on display in St Neots Museum, though they won’t say where it was found. There’s a rumour it was somewhere in that field beside the alpaca farm. The metal detectors will be out. As to why it was buried... you might well do the same if you were worried someone was after your money. Then there was that story: the guy who invested a small amount in Bitcoin, but forgot and put his hard-drive in the bin, along with – what? seventy million or so? Zeros mark the spot at the local landfill. Not exactly a sacrifice, though maybe in the Iron Age it was the price of health or happiness, a way to keep the peace. In two thousand years, when they at last dredge that small box out of the earth, the museum can stage an exhibition of life in the Alpaca Age.
Talking of Fake News, there was that manuscript by Donne, an autograph copy, it was said, the one found in the stables of Kimbolton Castle: they put it on
the front page of the TLS. It was possible. He might well have passed through here to Keyston, or to call on local poets. If so, it’s a minor miracle – ‘Good Friday Riding Westward’ in his own hand – perhaps a copy he brought with him, and left behind for the Duke to read, or Sir John; or simply (absent minded) dropped as he climbed on to his horse to continue west towards his place in literature. A kind of test of the true Metaphysical: who can be last to survive outside his own holograph? It’s his word against the experts’. Death, proud as ever, heard the news and God went on battering, undeterred.
An early morning walk through the lunatic asylum’s lonely hilly grounds, up to the Ridges, where I had thought those birds following me were eagles (but they were vultures), and I kept on coming round to the same point. Ohio is quiet. Memorial Weekend. The cemeteries are quieter still, along the nature trail, old inmates marked with small fluttering stars and stripes, but nothing there for such a wing-span, wide as this blackness in my room where the news keeps on rolling, circling.
Athens, Ohio, November 2018