Fur, Feather and Fen
by Elaine Ewart
'a year's poetic journey in the land of the three quarter sky:
about landscape, wildlife and people, grown from the fertility of a
thick dark soil.'
Fur, Feather and Fen
, has just come out from FlightFeather
Press as an exquisitely produced poetry pamphlet. It is the culmination of Elaine Ewart's year (2012-2013) as the first Fenland Poet Laureate. I first heard about the Fenland Laureateship from Karen Harvey
, who initiated the scheme and designed the stunning cover for Elaine's collection. I have since had the pleasure of meeting both Karen and Elaine. I have also met Leanne Moden
, Elaine's successor, who held the post from 2013-2014 and has just handed over to Poppy Kleiser
Elaine, an Oxford graduate in English Literature, writes with a passion for her subject, handling words and phrases with consummate skill and consistently applying what Flaubert called le mot juste
to achieve her ends. The collection opens with 'Drowned Lands', the poem that won Elaine the Laureateship. The piece also appears in Words for Wide Skies
, the anthology edited by Elaine as part of her Fenland remit. The poem begins with the emotive word, 'Digging', which immediately took me back to Seamus Heaney and his poem
about his ars poetica
. It led me on from that rich Irish soil to Elaine's home turf, a place that is far more familiar, a fenland landscape scented with 'water mint' and filled with 'butter-billed Bewicks':
'Across the field banks hem in the horizon, sky hanging
Heavy over silver coin-puddles of squealing wigeon ...'
Much of Elaine's poetry is written in free verse, but there are also more formal pieces with regular rhyme and repetition schemes such as 'A Visit to the Guild Workshop', which comprises the first part of the sequence, 'Celebrating Octavia Hill'.
In this pamphlet of poems that reflect the natural rhythms of the world on our doorstep, it is not surprising that we are transported through the changing seasons.
The collection ends with
'Love in a manger,
in 'A Fenland Christmas', a commissioned piece that has been set to music by John Lawson Baker as an anthem for a four part choir.
Before we reach the festive season, however, there is just time to join the eccentric Parson Hawker on his beloved but treacherous Cornish cliffs for a poignant 'Harvest at Morwenstow', where, when it comes to the need for burial
'... at this outpost of the eternal,
No-one is given up for lost.'
* * *
Fur, Feather and Fen by Elaine Ewart can be purchased from the following places:
Hundred Foot Bank
01353 860 711
Price: £4.50. Copies can be ordered by telephone and posted: please enquire from the seller about the added cost of p&p.
Wisbech and Fenland Museum
01945 583 817
Price: £4. Please enquire from the seller about ordering by post and the added cost of p&p.
01353 645 005
Price: £5. Please enquire from the seller about ordering by post and the added cost of p&p.