Monday, November 04, 2013


Warwick Castle, Warwickshire, England
Today, another short extract from my long poem ON WARWICK CASTLE, originally published by Nine Arches Press in whenever-it-was, now out of print but still available on Kindle as an ebook.

This poem was written during my year-long stint as Warwick Poet Laureate and is about the past and present Warwick Castle.

It was described by David Morley, poet and Director of the Creative Writing Programme at Warwick University, as 'a Modernist piece de resistance' - he also wrote the Foreword - and by David Floyd, writing in Sphinx, as 'one of the more ambitious works of public poetry generated through a local laureateship.'

So you have been warned ...

The old man sits behind them
on the grass, clay pipe stuck to his lip:

         ‘It was a day like this
         we rode against the King. Fifty years back.
         I was a boy then.’

A black mist, first thing,
and out of that mist,
the hiss of an arrow-storm, burning.
Those that survived
were sent down into the dark for it.
So, with the concealed blade
from a pocket knife, Master John Smith
etches out his name, and date
of his imprisonment:

Master John Smythe, Guner to his Majestye Highness
was a prisner in this place and lay here
from 1642 - tell the

Here, he's interrupted by the blade breaking
or a tour guide, descending.
There are rules even in darkness.
For a really serious breach,
the guide book tells him,
such as plagiarism or pastiche,
a man might be hung alive in chains
near the scene of his crime.
'Tell them,' he was to have finished,
         'I am a traveller in time,
         a master smith
         forged here in the shadows. I fall.
         I stop. My flesh decays.
         Yet here my name remains until
         the very end of days
         when there may be time
         for the courtyard gift shop, after all.
         Follow the signs.'

Up here in the light, every movement
                  is blinding.

         Stone light, grey
as a pigeon’s feather, cold on the rise
to Blacklow Hill
where Piers Gaveston fell: a moment’s struggle
in wet grass,
then the surprised head of the king’s lover
         rolls free, his lips drawn back,
still twitching.

Down in the village, a boy
armed with a spade
washes his face; trudges to work.

This rough mound, the sign says, was fortified
on the orders of William the Conqueror.
So, while Mercians dug, Normans sat,
pining for the wheat fields of France.
         Hony soyt quy mal pence.
1066 and All That.

         'No matter the right or wrong of it,
         we had to follow Warwick.
         Sheer black mist, first thing,
         and out of that mist,
         the hiss of an arrow-storm, burning.
         My father fell there in the confusion,
         a few miles shy of London.
         He died at Waterloo.
         Took a bullet in the Crimean.
         Fell at Ypres. Was listed
         among the missing.'

The boy stopped speaking ...

Read the rest of ON WARWICK CASTLE as a Kindle ebook. Currently only 77p!


Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Jane

Very vivid portrayal! We have been rereading your blog and there is an absolute abundance of good things here for anyone who is genuinely interested in poetry or prose or both.

Warm wishes from Simon et Rusty

Jane Holland said...

Thank you Simon and Rusty! Tres gentils of you! Jx

Poetry Pleases! said...

Dear Jane

Many Happy Returns on Sunday! If you'll allow me a small plug, my Selected Poems 'Speckled Spotted & Streaked' are now available from for only £1O!

Best wishes from Simon et Rusty

Jane Holland said...

Plug away, dear friend, plug away.

And thank you! 21 again ...