National Poetry Day: This Place I know

It's National Poetry Day and in Cumbria we are celebrating the launch of a new anthology of Cumbrian poetry called 'This Place I know'.  The county, originally made famous as the home of Wordsworth, Coleridge and Southey,  has a large number of contemporary writers and poets, many of them national or international names. This anthology celebrates their work and the landscape that provides the context for the authors' lives. One of my favourites is a laconic poem by Ross Baxter that showcases Cumbrian humour as well as the ancient species of sheep that live on the fells. Ross is a teacher and farmer and still lives on the same farm at the foot of Coniston Water.

The First Herdwick

When God said:  "Let there be sheep",

High on a crag in Cumbria

A lump of slate cracked free to tup

A shawl of passing cloud, which, somewhat

Shocked, floated to the mountain top

And there gave birth to something

Woolly and wiley, mild-eyed,

White faced, grey as frost in starlight

And with a most determined set of legs.

And God said:  "What's yon?"

And Sheep said: "I's a Herdwick".

And God looked at all the sheep he'd made

And saw that they were good;

But he looked at the Herdwick and said:-

"Ayes - them's the buggers!"

Copyright Ross Baxter
This Place I Know,
Handstand Press, 2018

And if anyone would like to know what it was like to grow up on the fells, I've been wandering around with a microphone for the Royal Literary Fund and you can listen to the result here:
Landscape and the Writer:  Kathleen Jones


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