As for me, I avoided Eng Lit at O & A Level* and would mark myself down as a fan of poetry that (a) rhymes and (b) makes me laugh. "When We Were Very Young" and "Now We Are Six" rank as my two most favourite poetry books of all time I would say, and I used to be able to recite Jabberwocky.
Consequently the news that The Battlefields Trust had a poet-in-residence was distinctly underwhelming. Well, an interesting idea, but, like "So what?" And it's a performance poet, too.
Anyway, having done this for 12 months she has written enough poems to justify publishing a small book through the Trust.
When we went to Derby Phil turned up with a box of the books as he's a BT Trustee and he's just been to the launch. Phil was very enthusiastic about the book. He's a bit more understanding of poetry than I am. I think he has Eng Lit A Level. He certainly knows his Shakespeare better than me.
Any how, it's all in a good cause, so I bought a copy of "Thorn Kings" by Clare Mulley at Derby and sat down to read a few poems in between playing the Northampton 1460 game.
The poems are based mainly around visits to four battlefields, - Hastings, Towton, Bosworth and Naseby. I can forgive her for not including our very own Northampton as it isn't as well developed in our national consciousness as the others, and I suppose you have to draw the line somewhere.
And they're very good. From the introduction to the explanations it's a gem of a little book. As they're supposed to be performed it helps if you can read them aloud in your head. They're also not at all what I expected. Actually I don't know what I expected, so I'm not sure that statement is relevant. They cover general reflections on battlefields - for example how many are fought on watersheds - to specific incidents such as Okey's dragoons firing at Naseby or individuals such as William the Bastard. The final poem is a general series of thoughts about the conversations held that lead eventually to conflict. One of the best is about the Cock Beck at Towton.
So, a thumbs up from me. here's a link to the Battlfield Trust website about how you can buy it for the little amount of £4. Or you can visit us (well, Phil mostly) at the Society of Ancients/Battlefields Trust/Northampton Battlefields Society stand at most shows and get it there. It was our biggest seller at Derby.
In fact, I was sufficiently inspired to pen the following after I had to walk Northampton Field to take some photographs for the Northampton Battlefields Society.
2pm Northampton September 2016
This time, two hours after noon, there is no meeting denied.
The swish of club, the strike of ball,
Must stand for that of arrow and of blade.
The warning cries of players replace those
Of battle cry and scream of pain.
The dogs let slip are not of war
(although those were of a more martial father)
But are those of hurried half-hour exercise
Between the phone calls and the meeting
That take the place of lunch.
The stream that once washed away a scheme of guns
Now barely fills a dip or hollow and
The trees where a Parliament not of Devils now meets
Stand where once a palisade was breached
By betraying hand.
And the sun shines, unseasonably
As once the rain fell.
(By way of explanation we believe the line of the Lancastrian fortification now runs along a copse called "The Rookery". The collective noun for a rooks is a Parliament. The rest you can work out for yourselves.)
*I actually did French A Level, so I've studied more French than English Lit.