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.
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.
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.
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.