Over the years series of poems have emerged from projects and extended periods of time in particular places. Here’s a selection of these collections, with a couple of examples from each. Click on the links if you’d like to read a full poem.
The Long View
Poems from The Long View (two years with seven remarkably ordinary trees) have been shared through the touring exhibition in 2017-2018 and through a number of anthologies. The poems are about trees, and much else: the trees were a focal point for a deeper exploration of a much wier place. Some poems were written as part of the creation of landscape installations, some emerged from blackout techniques using field notes, and others were composed in situ, on visits to with each individual tree. From the book, here are two:
it takes a while to walk in / to walk into a valley .... read more
here we sit, waiting
waiting for the light to change ... read more
time has slowed
I have slowed
feet in the river
birds call time
In 2016 as resident Poet in the Meadow, Harriet spent a month visiting, walking, and sleeping among wildflower meadows in High Borrowdale, Cumbria, with the support of Friends of the Lake District. This collection reflects on slow time in a meadow, celebrates the beauty and diversity of the flowers and grasses, and considers the wider in context. The number of wildflower meadows in the UK has declined by 97% since the 1940s; this meadow was recreated in 2003 by Friends of the Lake District, and continues to flourish. 'Meadow' was produced in a limited edition of 160 copies, and has now sold out. Here are two poems as a taster:
mist laid over green / dreams spread light as silk
hundreds, hundreds of flowers
specksmall .... read more
it is said the wild has fled
bemoan the passing of the wild
but it was here last night
in the vixen's wail .... read more
Tree Charter Poems
The Charter for Trees, Woods and People sets out the principles for a society in which people and trees can stand stronger together. The Tree Charter was launched in Lincoln Castle on 6 November 2017; the 800th anniversary of the 1217 Charter of the Forest. The Tree Charter is rooted in more than 60,000 ‘tree stories’ gathered from people of all backgrounds across the UK. It was a huge privilege to be asked to be the Charter's Poet in Residence and reflect on all of these stories and compose short verses for carving into treepoles that are now located across England. Harriet also wrote a short verse to be added to the formal Charter, which we unveiled, with the Tree Charter team, at Lincoln Castle in 2017.
As a legacy of The Long View, to mark the new Tree Charter, and in recognition of the award of World Heritage Site status to the English Lake District, we created three treefolds: circular dry stone structures embracing new trees. The poem carved into the treefolds is formed in three sections, with the landscape in between become part of the form, and the experience, of the poem. Read the poem and the story of the treefolds here.
Somewhere Nowhere in Utah
Our partnership, somewhere-nowhere, takes its name from a poem written by Anne Stevenson in Utah. Visiting Utah has been on Harriet's wishlist since the mid 1980s. When we invited to teach at an American University in the autumn of 2019, we grabbed the chance to finally visit Utah. One of the things that has emerged from this visit is the Utah collection of seven twinned poem-image pieces. Here are two, the first written in Pando, a 14,000 year-old aspen forest made up of one, multi-stemmed tree; the second written beside a disused stock pen:
among the whispering leaves
stories of sky and the inevitable
of another winter ....
there's no memory in dust
or the leaping of crickets
that thicken the air ...
read more here
In honour of ancient woodlands being lost to HS2
In 2018 and 2019 we visited a number of ancient woodlands that lie on the route of HS2, in the company of the Woodland Trust's campaign team. During this time the UK government was still formalising the decision to allow the construction of the high-speed rail link to go ahead; and with it, the destruction of, or significant damage to, 108 ancient woodlands. In the process of our visits, Harriet wrote a number of poems, some of which were performed during the installation The Archive of Lost Woods.
choose your clock ...
time and life sit layered in a wood
amoong a march of trees ...