by Natalie Burdett
The Miners Path is covered by a mat of fallen leaves,
and dead men’s finger fungus gestures at the past.
In Whites Wood, black bluebell seeds prepare
and willow seeds make dark soil starry.
Down by Himley, sunlight stencils ash leaves
and a grebe pair chases peeping chicks.
The Burning Field’s on fire with lavender-tinged teasels;
a flock of greenfinch swoop above them – well-fed, thriving.
This poem is the final part of a sequence of five Baggeridge pieces, taken from Natalie Burdett’s smith/doorstop collection, Urban Drift. She was selected by Carol Ann Duffy as a Laureate’s Choice Poet 2018. Here at WtBC, we love Burdett’s work and wanted to show this beautiful nature poem as a contrast to the usual industrial or post-industrial landscapes associated with this region. What Burdett captures in this snapshot is the lush, green, wild side of the Black Country – a place of prehistoric significance, one that later played its part in mining, and now, one where nature has returned and as Burdett writes, is well-fed, thriving. Like much of her writing, she offers a microscopic view of the space, closing in on the tiny details, often so much so they become uncanny snapshots. We don’t just get the plants, we get the black bluebell seeds, what they’re tinged with and their gestures. Her work is in keeping with New Nature Writing, subtly asking the reader to consider their own engagement with the natural world. In this specific case the contrast of The Miner’s Path, dark soil and fire with its descriptions of plant and bird life forces us to think about our heritage in an ecological context. It offers something from the traditions of Romanticism – this is chorography and topographical poetry which zooms in and zooms out of a place, which thinks about how past, present and future relate, and in doing so refreshes it forever.
Find out more about Natalie and Urban Drift here