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Di Slaney



the poet

Di Slaney lives in Nottinghamshire, England, where she runs livestock sanctuary Manor Farm Charitable Trust and independent poetry publisher Candlestick Press. She was the winner of The Plough Poetry Prize 2022, and has had her poetry broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Di's poems have been published and anthologised widely, as well as highly commended by both The Forward Prizes and the Bridport Prize. She is the author of two poetry collections: Reward for Winter and Herd Queen.

the poems


00:00 / 01:48

                        In  the  beginning  there  was  a  farmhouse without

                        a   field,   and   a   woman   and   a   man   without

                        children.  The   man   was  content  but  the woman

                        wanted.  The old  farmhouse  knew,  it  had  always

                        known  what  the  people  who  lived  in  it  wanted,

                        although most wouldn't listen.  This woman listened.

                        She  heard  the  house  breathe  her  thirst  through

                        its  beams,  wear  her  desire  into  its scuffed flags.

                        She  smelled   its   loss  when   wind   spat  ancient

                        soot  down  the  chimney,  saw  how  every  spring

                        wildgreen   crept  a  little  closer  to  the back door.

                        So  the  farmhouse  and  the  woman made  a pact,

                        a promise without  words.  They sealed the bargain

                        with palmpress to  wood, flesh on oak. She proved

                        her  faith  first,  reclaimed  the land  though it wept

                        scars  of  rubbish   when  it   rained.  The   woman

                        marked  the  field  with  scent  and sticks, walked it

                        over and over  till she  knew the pits and folds  like

                        her own  body in  the dark.  The farmhouse waited,

                        humming  on  a  frequency  only  she  could  hear.

                        That first winter, with planting done and  everything

                        suspended,  she  doubted the  bargain.  The  cold

                        seemed to freeze out good intentions, make  every

                        possible thing  one  step  closer to impossible. But

                        the house still thrummed its constant yes, and when

                        spring  returned,  and new trees  perked  first buds

                        east to face the pale sun rising,  hope fluttered like

                        greedy sparrows on the feeder.


00:00 / 01:18

                        i. Brick by brick


                        If I could lift it up and

                        move it, brick by brick,

                        I’d gladly build it all by hand

                        again myself, and pick

                        the best location here,

                        against these trees, back

                        to the wood, view facing clear

                        downhill towards the stack

                        of small red chimneys huddled

                        round the church, where it sat

                        waiting, calm, untroubled,

                        four hundred years, knowing that

                        such vigil would pay off, timbers aching

                        for it, stone hearth breaking.

                        ii. Buying it back

                        Fitting that this field

                        returns, unharmed,

                        now that the deal is sealed,

                        to where they farmed

                        hard living those long days

                        before, leaving no trace

                        but bones and stones, their ways

                        at odds with my mad pace

                        stuttering slowly to a crawl

                        along the sloping rocky track,

                        across the weatherweary wall

                        with seedlings pointing every crack,

                        my greedy eyes fill up with green,

                        buying it back, borrowing a dream.

History of a Field

00:00 / 01:39

            Roll it back, roll it back, this greentipped scroll, this

            loosetop layer, from how-it-is to how-it-used-to-be;

            unplant the trees, dig up the hedge, blur out the track,

            return the moat, the gate, the square of earth you see

            behind the church, give sheep those other lives or

            deaths, keep rolling till loose cattle stroll black

            graveyards late at night, pigs begrudge their lack

            of straw in tinlid huts, hayyield begets huge stacks

            and roll, keep rolling while World War II Italians pick fat

            fruit from applepears and sing sweet songs and trick

            young localhearts with tiny matchplanes crafted

            under candles in the loft, keep rolling back past all

            their prayers, soil shifting, harrowed, furrowed,

            shires turning, bridled, harnessed, tacked; keep

            rolling – now land is wider uphilldownhill, woodside,

            broadside, trees reaching overunderround, leaves

            smacking heads, rumpsandtumps, the forest’s knack

            to spread and swallowwhole this little patch, its

            shack of small dominion, its stamp, its hearth,

            your heart. Stop rolling. Fold it back, fold it back.

Publishing credits

Creation / Diptych: Reward for Winter (Valley Press)

History of a Field: winner of The Plough Poetry Prize 2022


S h a r e

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