Between the Lines: Poems on the Dart

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We glimpse history and place and identity all bubbling up and swirling together, reflecting sunlight, moonlight, "wind, wings, roots.

Studies in Ecocriticism

One night I will. I saw two roe deer wandering through this morning. And then the wind's got its foot in and singles out the weaklings, drawn up old coppice stems that've got no branches to give them balance. I generally leave the deadwood lying.

PDF Between the Lines: Poems on the Dart

They say all rivers were once fallen trees. And this child watching two salmon glooming through Boathouse Pool in water as high as heaven, spooked with yew trees and spokes of wetrot branches — Christ be there watching him watching, walking on this river. There one dreamed bare clothed only in his wings and one slept floating on his own reflection whose outline was a point without extension.

At his wits' end to find the flickerings of his few names and bones and things, something stood shouting inarticulate descriptions of a shape that came and went all night under the soft malevolent rotating rain. Tillworkers, thieves and housewives, all enshrined in sleep, unable to look round; night vagrants, prisoners on dream-bail, children without parents, free-trading, changing, disembodied, blind dreamers of every kind; even corpses, creeping disconsolate with tiny mouths, not knowing, still in tears, still in their own small separate atmospheres, rubbing the mould from their wet hands and feet and lovers in mid-flight all sank like a feather falls, not quite in full possession of their weight.

I'm in milk, ,, gallons a week. The only light's the lichen tinselling the trees. And when it's gone, Flat Owers is ours. We mouth our joy. Oysters, out of sight of sound. A million rippled life-masks of the river. I'd love to hear it read aloud by a chorus that does justice to Oswald's almost Joycean musicality. Highly recommended. Jun 07, Roisin Hobson rated it it was amazing Shelves: always-in-the-write-reviews. Dart is a 48 page long poem, based around the River Dart in Devon.

The poem explores many different voices, marked in the margins along with a few brief notes. The piece won the T.

Kevin Pyne

S Eliot Prize, and it is easy to see why. I usually struggle to read long pieces of poetry, and so I was surprised to find that I enjoyed this so much. Again, this came from my boyfriend — he had to read it for a module of his, and started reading it aloud while I was there.


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  • Review: Dart.

I think this approach was what kept me i Dart is a 48 page long poem, based around the River Dart in Devon. Focusing on the rhythms and beat of the piece not only helped me read it but I think it also adds to the feel of it — there are places with little rhythm and places with a clear beat; this is obviously intentional, and should be read as such. The narrative itself is a really interesting one. The voices cut off and overlap, which can be jarring but is also incredibly effective.

Again, this reflects the river; some parts as slower, as the river may slow down, others fast paced, like rapids. Like the changes in voice and rhythm, the formatting of the poem changes regularly and in different ways; sometimes it changes suddenly, others it transitions smoothly. There are indications in the margin where one voice changes to another. These do not refer to real people or even fixed fictions. Jan 10, Rick rated it really liked it Shelves: poetry.

Dart is a very engaging and satisfying read, helped by a narrative flow that is more easily managed in a single poem than across a sequence or set of sequences. Form shif Dart is a very engaging and satisfying read, helped by a narrative flow that is more easily managed in a single poem than across a sequence or set of sequences. It is both beautiful and stimulating.

Dec 08, Ben Dutton rated it it was amazing. Alice Oswald spent three years recording conversations with people all along the Dart river - their voices and the sound of the river infuse this book length poem, in which the reader is carried along by liquid song, bounced around, churned over, and ultimately moved by this beautiful, bright poem. Dart belongs to the tradition of British nature writing, poetry and prose, and shares much in common with an early twentieth century poet, Edward Thomas.

I was reminded of his poem Lob a few times. Poe Alice Oswald spent three years recording conversations with people all along the Dart river - their voices and the sound of the river infuse this book length poem, in which the reader is carried along by liquid song, bounced around, churned over, and ultimately moved by this beautiful, bright poem. Poetry is all about finding those liminal spaces, the cracks inbetween life where magic happens, where insight is gleaned, where transformation occurs.

All these things occur in abundance in Oswald's fine work. Dart is a masterpiece of twenty-first century poetry. An extraordinary feat! From water-nymphs to sewage workers, Alice Oswald captures the voices of the river Dart chambermaid, crabbers, dreamer, etc. Each interview is transformed in the ceaseless, lapping flow of the narrative into an idiosyncratic form, a gem of language. I love the interflow of verbatim speech which reminds me how life is and poetic invention. A sample swimmer : Menyahari - we scream in mid-air.

We jump from a tree into a pool, we change ourselves into the fish dimension. Eve An extraordinary feat! Everybody swims here under Still Pool Copse, on a saturday, slapping the water with bare hands, it's fine once you're in. May 28, Michael Vagnetti rated it it was amazing.


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  7. Poetry that wrangles an element. Setting up "language" in relief to "water," the experience takes on the river's primal forces: flowing, nimble, refreshing, dangerous. This is a communal writing, and there is a unique parallax of reading what are most certainly "someone else's words" being collated into new verse.

    Kevin Pyne

    This is useful recycling, phonemes as molecules, energy never lost. Ego is distributed among characters that were really there: a sealwatcher, a dreamer. Like an aquatic reliquary, now Poetry that wrangles an element.

    Poet Alice Oswald reads from Falling Awake

    Like an aquatic reliquary, now very loud, now very quiet, as if you were wading among precious jetsam. Jul 08, Alyson Hagy rated it really liked it. I was fascinated by the structure of this book. This isn't a history of the River Dart; it's a portrait--a choral portrait, if there is such a thing. Oswald works wonders with the language of the people real and imagined, living and legendary who abide in the realm of a river.

    She also works wonders with the English language, taking full advantage of sound and rhythm. This is a lush and learned and original read. Jul 05, Chris rated it really liked it Shelves: pomes. A wonderful book-length poem, with several voices in verse and prose very skillfully stitched together, "Slip-Shape," into a "songline from the source to the sea.

    Very sloppy for a page book. Dart isn't a flawless work by any means, but how long has it been since a NEW book-length poem has worked as well as this one does? A very long time. How long has it been since a more-or-less new book it was first published in of poetry from a mainstream press has impressed me this much? Is her other work as good? I don't know. But Dart is very fine work indeed.

    May 15, Linda Egan rated it really liked it. I loved this book-length poem that tells the story of the Dart River in England and the many people that work and live alongside her. Alice Oswald spent several years talking to the people who frequented the river, before writing their "stories" as a poem, mixing free verse and prose in an amazing piece of literature that thrilled my soul. A beautiful piece of work. Oct 26, Mick Canning rated it it was amazing Shelves: will-read-again. Beautifully lyrical journey along the River Dart.

    There are no suplerfluous lines or even words in the entire poem, which flows as easily and melodiously as the river itself. A book that I come back to repeatedly, to either re-read or simply dip into when I feel the need. A favourite! Feb 19, Colleen S Harris rated it it was ok Shelves: interlibrary-loans , poetry. An exhausting collection, it's really an oral history in verse with no breaks between voices -- makes for an exhausting and interesting read where the character voices of the river blend into each other. Some beautiful singsong lines in here; it'll require more than one reading though.

    Nov 13, Word Bird rated it really liked it. A wonderful lyric poem, evoking my favourite river, the Dart, and the countryside and people of Dartmoor. Beautifully fluid, with evocative language that captures the burbling of the peaty river, its rushing wildness and sudden surges.

    Jun 02, Sue rated it really liked it.

    After interviewing people connected with the river Dart, this poem celebrating those who work on it and its natural inhabitants, was written. The language is beautiful, the subject matter fascinating. Advanced search. Journal Green Letters Studies in Ecocriticism. Submit an article Journal homepage. Pages Received 10 Oct Additional information Author information Rowan Middleton.

    Acknowledgement I would like to thank the two anonymous reviewers for their insightful comments and suggestions.

    Alfred, Lord Tennyson | Poetry Foundation

    I then work with these two kinds of record - one precise, one distorted by the mind - to generate the poem's language. It's experimental and very against my grain, this mixture of journalism and imagination, but the results are exciting. Above all, it preserves the idea of the poem's voice being everyone's, not just the poet's. I've spoken to a huge amount of people.

    Kevin Pyne - By The Dart

    Only a selection of these have found their way into the poem; forester, boat-builder, ecologist, stone-waller, sewage area-manager, canoe-instructor, seal watcher, fisheries officer, salmon fisher, archaeologist All are 'working' voices. This reflects my preoccupation with Work as a power-line for language. When a sewage worker talks of liquid being 'clarified', when a fisheries officer talks of the water 'riffling' or a stone-waller says 'scrudging', those words have never had such flare.

    Over the past six months, I've concentrated on people in the Totnes area, because of having a small child and no car. I now have two small children and no car, but am beginning to move downriver to talk to people between Sharpham and Dartmouth. These places are relatively well served by buses. The upper stretches of the river are hard both to research and to reach. I've begun putting out requests for information in two Dartmoor journals, but I shan't be able to follow these up till next year. I'm now at a point where I can see the shape of what's emerging - a river-map of voices, like an aboriginal songline.

    The oral nature of the work is very important to me. I'd like the end-result to be performed, not necessarily published. But I certainly can't predict when that will be.

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