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Mon 22 Dec 2014 @ 10:10

Church House Bookshop is open as usual today and tomorrow. We're then closed for Christmas - see you again 5th January 2015!

At Helpston

Meetings with John Clare


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Publisher: Black Dog Books
ISBN-13: 9780956567222
Number of Pages: 168
Product description
These essays, many of them presidential addresses to the John Clare Society, form a unique series of ‘meetings’ between the Northamptonshire labourer who became England’s finest nature poet and our own ‘rural intellectual’, the author of Akenfield. he work of the Suffolk artist Mary Newcomb provides a perfect foil to the lyricism of Blythe’s prose and the genius of Clare’s verse.

Blythe’s attempt to ‘interpret [Clare’s] extraordinary rural voice as a fellow countryman’, sets the poet’s life and work in the context of kindred spirits – Barnes and Hardy, Bloomfield and Constable. In these essays, which range from Clare’s Scottish ancestry to his rediscovery by Edmund Blunden in 1919, Blythe gets to the heart of the poet’s genius by revisiting the scenes of his childhood and the poems they inspired.

Clare’s ‘secret wanderings’ where he could ‘drop down’ and observe nature produced , among others, the great bird poems – to the thrush, the nightingale and the peewit, that masterpiece of footpath observation. Here the nest becomes a metaphor for Clare’s native parish before his removal from it and the enclosure movement destroyed both the poet’s mind and the ‘secret glories’ of his childhood.

As Blythe reminds us, much has been written about Clare – the eco poet, the poet of protest and voice of the countryside – but he urges us to revisit the work and have ‘our entire universe expanded by his language’. Like the nightingale Clare ‘hides and sings’ and from his yeoman’s house tucked away in the Stour valley Blythe too ‘hides and sings’ and we are privileged to hear his voice.