Episode 38: Beth Hartley – Make Space for Poetry

Picture: Ken Cumberlidge

Beth Hartley shares poems from her debut collection, What if Stars, published by Allographic. She discusses the role poetry has had in her life and the joys of bringing her first book into the world. She also shows us how we can find poetry in our most familiar surroundings.

Beth’s Writing at Home exercise

Go into a room in your house or garden if you have one. Be still in it and allow it to talk to you. What is it giving your different senses? What is it telling you? Is it telling you about something that it likes or that needs doing? Hold yourself open to the influences of your place – even and especially as these places are the things you see every day. We tend to neglect what we see most often. Set a timer for a free write – then afterward, go back into that free write and work from that.

Beth shares her poem Before on the podcast, written using this technique. She says: “Before” is something I wrote about being up earlier than the rest of my household, a time I often use for writing, or planning, to be still. Senses also heighten memory and experiences and it’s good to explore those things in our work. I often use poetry to process experiences – like this, or sometimes dreams or performances. It helps my brain to make sense of all the things and also to remember things.

As always please share what you come up with for a chance to feature on the blog or podcast. You can submit poems here.

For more information on Beth Hartley and to buy her book visit: linktr.ee/PoetryBees

Books by many of the poets featured on the podcast are available from the Poetry Non-Stop bookshop here. All books purchased via this link help to raise money to keep this podcast going.

Beth Hartley – Suggested Development

Picture: Ken Cumberlidge

Beth Hartley shares a poem from her debut collection What if Stars published by Allographic. Former podcast guest Leanne Moden calls it “a gorgeous, lyrical collection, exploring the intersection between our physical and emotional landscapes.”

Look out for Beth on the podcast talking about the collection and sharing more poems.

Suggested Development

Do not come at me and say
“Barren featureless landscape;
no merit in this earth.”
I urge you to look further,
for I have seen it roll in the dark
and swallow people up whole
leaving only cellophane to mark
places where you can slip over the edge
so easily.
Where even slowed to a horse walk
it can claim you:
wet fingers crawling, grasping.

I urge you to look further,
for where the land meets the water
they have become one.
Driving in the dark you are surrounded
by waves of earth.
Navigating the causeway,
listening to the wash and drag
of wind in wheat and potatoes.
Where the blaze of oil seed rape
will blind you;
A rough sown patchwork
laid rippling upon the land.

I urge you to look further
than the flat that you suppose,
to see the gentle undulation,
a tide not even Vermuyden could abate.
The flow of village ridge
and sweeping fall away.
Under this wide sky,
you will see swan and diver
where the rain gets in.
Winter wise and wonder
from the border to the gate.

More than a building plot.
Far better than bare.
Why don’t you watch what grows
when you leave the land alone?
We are your veg box and your farm assured:
it feeds a family, it feeds a soul.
I urge you to look further
than convention would dictate.

Dedicated to Rachel, with (a modicum of) love.