“Other Than They Were”: Fair Places Full of Folk
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Few things are more unpredictable than the convergence of people, landscape and memory. Often, the more time that passes, the more memory has to lean upon imagination to define experiences from the ever-receding past. “The present”, notes Ian Jack, “always depends upon the past, which makes the past a necessary subject of any reporter’s enquiry” (Jack 2009: xiii). When the reporter is also a poet, however, the enquiry of which Jack speaks assumes a different character, different imperatives. The following essay considers Batmans Hill, South Staffs, 1961-1972, my themed sequence of poems, a return to the human and non-human landscapes of my childhood. One concern of the sequence is how locality defined people and people humanised locality in one region of post-war municipal England. Running alongside that, however, is an awareness of the caprice of memory and a fascination with the ways in which poetry tempers and exploits that caprice.
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