William Bedford’s shed




24th July 1841: John Clare
Two wives I have,
iffen folk say no,
law say no,
feeble brain imagines.
I’ve walked these miles,
bramble, hazard,
carters’ wiles,
a gypsy crawl
to find
a home in Mary’s smile.
And still I reckon,
sing love tunes:
huswife and bedwife,
to bicker over moons;
a harvest supper
wi wooden spoons.
the neighbours snigger.
I whistle rhythms
nobbut fools chose.
And walk at night,
nimbling poacher’s ways,
sleep on clover trusses,
chew grass ‘cos
fish gone, game gone,
no trespasses
now fields and common closed.
I chew tobacco too,
then swallow,
no lucifers to light my pipe,
smoke fumes enew.
Two wives I have,
acrost bare fields of stubble,
no pastoral views,
childern learned to reddle.
I walk
where wind whips elms:
frozed night,
red gypsy hat for warmth or trouble.
I walk
where Eden used to be,
haymaking games
a game for saucey drovers.
Then Patty
says me home.
Sweet Mary died.
And how can I forget?
nimbling moving nimbly reddle riddle enew enough
He took First Class Honours in English Literature and a Ph.D at the University of Sheffield, and taught part-time for the University of Sheffield, Middlesex Polytechnic, The Open University, London University Extra Mural Dept and the University of Hull Extra Mural Dept during 1977-1985. He joined the Editorial Board of Poetry Salzburg Review in 2007. He was Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Oxford Brookes University 2008 – 2011. He became a full-time novelist and children’s writer in 1984.

He received an Arts Council Major Bursary for Poetry in 1978, Society of Authors Award in 1993, Yorkshire and Humberside Arts Award in 1993, Yorkshire Arts Award in 2000 for the publication of The Redlit Boys and a Royal Literary Fund Award in 2007. His first novel, Happiland, was runner-up for the 1990 Guardian Fiction Prize. Several of his short stories were broadcast on BBC Radio 4’s Morning Story. “Orchards” appeared in the anthology God gives nuts to those who have no teeth (Heinemann, l990) and “Graceland” appeared in the anthology The Daily Telegraph Book of Contemporary Short Stories (Headline, 1995). In 1979 BBC Radio Sheffield broadcast his six-part musical drama The Man Who Invented Words, and in 2003 BBC Radio 4 broadcast his drama The Piano Player. His Collecting Bottle Tops: Selected Poetry 1960-2008 was published in 2009. His selected short stories and non-fiction – None of the Cadillacs Was Pink – was also published in 2009.

The Fen Dancing (Red Squirrel Press) is Bedford’s new collection and begins with poems about his father’s 1920s childhood in a remote farming community in Lincolnshire, and ends with the Manhattan skyline and the literary world of Greenwich Village.


4 thoughts on “William Bedford’s shed”

  1. I have been quite captivated by this poem – the voice, the dialect, and walking with Clare and his ‘disturbed’ mind in such a state of anguish. A remembrance of a first love. It could be a poem for today and the loss of much loved environments – “I walk/where Eden used to be” `- trying to recapture that special place or person. “Fish gone, game gone/no trespasses/allowed” – thank you for letting us trespass with Clare – it’s enlightening.

  2. I’ve loved all the Shed pieces but this went a long way, I felt. I love the language/diction, the skilful subtle inhabitation of Clare’s voice, and the deeper resonances behind the poem. Thank you, William (and Abegail).

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