What’s on Jean Atkin’s doormat?




It’s the way this hill has somehow
heaved its shoulders high enough
to catch the sun.

It’s the brown of warm eggs
in the nest box, the protests
when you lift a ruffling hen.

You might say it’s the sheep running,
bucking down the wintered slope; the way
their hoofs carve little curls of mud.

Surely it’s the sweet stink of green buds
bulging on the blackcurrant. Or the way catkins
blow and ripple, like clean washing.

And didn’t you stand outside
in your socks after dinner,
on the cast-iron doormat, listening

to the oystercatchers pairing,
whistle and circle,
in the March dark?



First published in Pushing Out The Boat 2011

Jean Atkin   |   jean@wordsparks.co.uk  


Poet in residence at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm – Jean Atkin reports

A while ago I did a feature on poetry residencies after doing one with at Scotney Castle. I shall post up more about my project and details of the pamphlet later, but wanted to post this piece by fellow poet, Jean Atkin, who contacted me after seeing the article. This is her story…

IJean’ve been poet in residence at Acton Scott Historic Working Farm since Easter, supported by Arts Council England. Acton Scott is a model farm built in the late 18thcentury, presented now as a Victorian working farm museum. Shire horses work the land, mangolds are grown to feed the stock in winter, and stored in huge ‘clamps’, there is a midden the size of a cottage in the centre of the cobbled yard, with neatly tilting drainage to carry away effluent.

My residency aimed to engage with visitors, encouraging them to hear and write poetry about the Farm. It’s been huge fun, as poems sprouted in barns and shepherd’s huts, and fluttered all along the length of the cleft post and rail ‘Poetry Fence’. I ran workshops for regionally-based poets and would-be poets, plus special workshops designed for school visits. Horses

The residency ended on 19 July with an event we dubbed ‘Poems for the Farm’, when everyone who’d written for the project was invited back to share their work before an audience. There was a wonderful response and ‘Poems for the Farm’ packed out the New Barn to hear 20 poets (aged from 7 to at least 70) read out their words for this very special place. We also read some of the work from people who couldn’t be there – like Huxley’s poem about sitting on a Shire (Huxley is 3!) – and work sent to me by poets who just live too far away. I’m hugely grateful for the support I’ve had from poets and writers living in the region, and from the skilled and amazing people who work at the farm. I’ve just counted up, and 96 poems were written for the farm during the residency.

Mason BeesMason Bees

the mason bees prospect
this warm red wall
bee-buzz the same in all
the summers since
this clay was dug

into toasted crevices
and cracks of firing
they sing then vanish


The residency is there online too, and after I invited poems for the Poetry Fence I started to receive them from as far away as India, Canada and USA. You can read more at http://actonscottfarmpoet.wordpress.com/ and my website is www.jeanatkin.com