University Archives and Special Collections celebrates the Dymock Poets on 1 December

The University of Gloucestershire Special Collections and Archives is launching the Dymock Poets Online Catalogue. Several years in preparation, this database makes the Archives Dymock holdings accessible for the first time and is a tremendous research resource. To celebrate, the UoGSCA is hosting an evening of poetry and seasonal goodies. Students will read poems and there’ll be a chance to hear about our longstanding ties with the Dymock Poets.

For more details, click here, or email Louise Hughes, Principal Library Advisor (Archives) at archives@glos.ac.uk

Thursday 1 December
6:00 – 7:30 pm
University Archives
Francis Close Hall (QU024)

Everyone is welcome

Edward Thomas and Gloucestershire: Heather Cobby MA reports on the May Hill celebrations

The School of Humanities has been celebrating its long-standing connections with the Dymock Poets. The University  Special Collections and Archives houses the Gloucestershire Poets, Writers and Artists Collection, and in June the School joined forces with the Edward Thomas Fellowship and Friends of Dymock Poets for a weekend conference, reported in the local press. Dr Debby Thacker (Senior Lecturer emerita, English Literature) gave a paper on how the Dymock poets allowed expression of the child’s voice in their work.

Heather Cobby wrote her Master’s thesis on Edward Thomas’s prose work and other unpublished writings, and is also a member of the Edward Thomas Fellowship. She reports on the recent  festivities held at May Hill in Thomas’s honour, exclusively for the English Literature blog. Heather’s report captures the sense of place and community that inspired Thomas. The beautiful  illustration was contributed by pupils at Huntley Junior School.
May Hill village hall was the bustling centre for a day of celebration on Saturday June 13th . People from several counties joined the locals to enjoy all things `arty`,  `crafty` and poetic, which had been inspired by or produced on May Hill and its immediate surroundings.

The idea for the day was conceived by The National Trust as one of their `spirit of place` events, and sprang from the fact that Edward Thomas started to write his important poem `Words` while sitting on the slopes of the hill. Thomas was on a cycling tour from Gloucester to Coventry and had cycled to May Hill with his friend, local solicitor and botanist, John (`Jack`) Haines.   

The day`s events included two guided walks led by National Trust rangers and, at appropriate stops, poems and readings inspired by the hill were read. Some of these were written in the early twentieth century by the local group of `Dymock Poets`, but there were also more modern ones by the walkers themselves. The rangers were on hand to explain their management of the hill and to point out birds and flowers of interest as well as to answer any questions. Unfortunately nearly all the poems and readings referred to the normally wide-ranging views from the hill, which were completely obliterated by fog and drizzle. Nevertheless, the walkers were undeterred and professed to enjoy the `spiritual` atmosphere as we climbed the hill. There had also been a poetry competition for poems inspired by the hill for which first, second and third winners of National Trust vouchers were announced in the hall at lunch time.

For those not walking, there was plenty to occupy them in the village hall. Local schools were showing their pupils` amazing colourful and very professional artwork that had been inspired by the hill. Tall pines displayed themselves next to bushy hawthorns and there were imaginative views of the whole hill, even including a road at the bottom. At the entrance to the hall the side of a large awning had been used for anyone coming or going to add their artistic ideas to a huge wall painting depicting animals, birds and flowers associated with the village and the hill. Refreshments were available in the form of Fairtrade tea and coffee, a May Hill Ploughman`s lunch and a wonderful assortment of cakes made by a local catering company.

Stalls in the hall included jewellery, curtain pulls and key rings made out of local wood and snoods, hats, jumpers and other clothing made from wool from sheep farmed on May Hill. Beautiful cards and pictures of May Hill in a variety of materials abounded and one local artist was selling self-illustrated books of her own poetry inspired by the landscape and nature of the hill. Another local artist`s own illustrations decorated a book of some of Edward Thomas`s poems. To add to the celebratory atmosphere, a local folk couple were playing their own suitably rustic music.  The whole day reflected the wide variety of excellent local talent produced by our wonderful May Hill.

Edward Thomas, undated photo.

Bringing Gloucestershire poetry to Gloucestershire schools: a new DegreePlus opportunity


Bluebells in Dymock Woods, 2014. Photo: HWeeks


Here is an exciting internship opportunity through DegreePlus that will be of especial interest to anyone who loves poetry and is seeking classroom experience.  

The  Dymock Poets were a group of writers and artists (not just poets) who lived in and around the village of Dymock at the beginning of the twentieth century: Edward Thomas, Robert Frost, Lascelles Abercrombie, WW Gibson, and others. I wrote a post about a visit to Dymock for the blog last year.

The Friends of Dymock Poets want to promote awareness of these Gloucestershire poets in local schools and have asked for our help in making it happen. Our University Archives hold an important collection of related material, so we have strong connections to these writers and to their milieu.
You can find out more about the project and how to apply at the DegreePlus webpage:

Writing and Walking in Ledbury


English Literature and Creative Writing students at the University of Gloucestershire were invited to an event on the theme of writing and walking that took place in Ledbury on the 25th October. Anna Stenning (PhD candidate at the University of Worcester) began by introducing some perspectives on the theme from the work of Robert Macfarlane, Linda Cracknell and Richard Mabey. Anna also brought in the poetry of Edward Thomas and Robert Frost, arguing that the enjambment and phrasing of Thomas’s ‘The Sun Used to Shine’ reflected the act of walking that the poem describes. After some delicious tea and cake, poet Ruth Stacey read from her work. She described how walking is an integral part of her creative process, and discussed some of the ways in which this has affected her poetry. Jenny Hope then read poems from her collection Petrolhead, as well as some new work. Her poetry brought myth and metaphor to bear on subjects that ranged from the wind to a local rook cull. Anna concluded the event by leading a walk out through the cobbled streets of Ledbury and into the nearby Frith Wood.
 


Gloucestershire’s own Poets’ Corner

Of the many writers and artists who have drawn inspiration from Gloucestershire and the borderlands, the Dymock Poets represent a particular moment in English life in the years leading up to WW1. Edward Thomas, Rupert Brooke, Eleanor Farjeon, and others, along with the American poet Robert Frost (for a while) settled in Dymock from about 1913 – 16.  They were drawn by the area’s isolated beauty and the promise of companionship and support for their art, and for something more. Matthew Hollis writes: ‘They came from the cities for an elemental life, for the earth beneath their boots or the breeze that stirred the wheat fields.’ * Perhaps they idealised rural life, which is hard and unforgiving, then as now. For a while, though, the beautiful Leadon valley gave them the space and freedom that allowed them to develop as writers and artists.

We can still experience some of that peaceful beauty in Dymock today. In Spring, the paths to Dymock Woods trail through daffodils and bluebells. St. Mary’s Church Dymock stands behind the village green, but the visitor is in for another surprise: the Poets Corner in the northwestern part of the church, where an exibition of poems, paintings, publications and information celebrates the Dymock Poets’s achievements. Read more at the church’s web page on the poets. You can see some more photos at our Flickr gallery.

 
 
 

                                                                  ‘oh! yet
                                                    Stands the Church clock at ten to three?
                                                    And is there honey still for tea?’
 
                                                    Rupert Brooke, ‘The Old Vicarage, Grantchester’ from Collected Poems (1916)
 
Frost and Thomas formed a close creative friendship, going for long walks in the Dymock Woods and along the valley. Thomas taught Frost to think his poems through the body, through the act of walking, not simply seeing. Roger Ebbatson remarks that ‘Thomas’s verse constantly implies the point of view of the walker in the landscape.’ * In return, Frost teased his friend for being constitutionally indecisive and hesitant. A walk through the daffodil paths at Dymock is thought to be the origin of one of Frost’s most famous poems. 
 
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
 
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
 
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
 
I shall be telling this with a sigh
somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
 
Robert Frost, ‘The Road Not Taken’ (1915)
 
Frost went back to the USA; Thomas was killed in action in France on Easter Monday 1917.
 
The University of Gloucestershire preserves the Dymock Poets Archive, part of our Gloucestershire Poets, Writers and Artists Special Collection.  Several research staff and postgraduate students in the School of Humanities have a particular interest in Thomas’s work. But our connection with the work of local poets and writers goes beyond academic curiosity. Cheltenham and Gloucester are situated between the Cotswolds and the Severn, not far from the Forest of Dean and the Welsh borders. Our identity is strongly regional. Gloucestershire inspires everything we do, and it is the place to which we return continually in our work and university life.
 
* References: Matthew Hollis, Now All Roads Lead to France: The Last Years of Edward Thomas (London: Faber, 2011), p. 116; Roger Ebbatson, An Imaginary England: Nation, Landscape and Literature, 1840-1920 (Aldershot: Ashgate, 2005), p. 167.
 
Photos: Hilary Weeks.
 



Research seminar on Edward Thomas, poet of Gloucestershire and WW1

The Centre for Writing, Place and History
 
presents
 
 
 
 
‘”The sun filled earth and heaven with a great light”: Edward Thomas’s poetic evocation of the weather world’
 
Anna Stebbing (University of Worcester)
 
Wednesday 7 May 2014
Francis Close Hall HC204, 5:15
 
Everyone is welcome
 
Image: Bluebells in Dymock Woods.
Reproduced for educational purposes only