Today marks the start of the National Eisteddfod, this year in Abergavenny, and our Friday Poem talks of an area just a few miles north – Ysgyryd Fawr, or The Skirrid. The poem is taken from Abergavenny poet Owen Sheers’ second collection, Skirrid Hill.
Ideas of separation and divorce are important in Owen Sheers’ eagerly-awaited follow up to his acclaimed debut collection The Blue Book. The geographical divides of borders, the separation of the dead and the living, the movement from childhood to adulthood, the ending of relationships. Such divides are both moments of ‘mark-making’ and moments of absence. In this collection it is often the awareness of such separation – past or impending – and the juxtaposition of these diverse states – that provides the friction from which the poems are born.
Just like the farmers who once came to scoop
handfuls of soil from her holy scar,
so I am still drawn to her back for the answers
to every question I have never known.
To the sentence of her slopes,
the blunt wind glancing from her withers,
to the split view she reveals
with every step along her broken spine.
This edge of her cleft palate,
part hill, part field,
rising from a low mist, a lonely hulk
adrift through Wales.
Her east-west flanks, one dark, one sunlit,
her vernacular of borders.
Her weight, the unspoken words
of an unlearned tongue.
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