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William Bedford’s The bread horse

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Very pleased to be reading William Bedford’s book published by Red Squirrel Press, an independent press based in Northumberland and run under the editorship and keen eye of its Founder Editor, Sheila Wakefield.

I have long admired Bedford’s work and by pure happenstance chose his poem, Then as winner in the 2014 Roundel Poetry Competition. As it doesn’t seem to appear in either of these collections (and I love it) I’d like to share it with you here.

 

Then

for Alison Brackenbury (North Lincolnshire: 1959-1963)

I had to kill them when it was time to go,
take my leave and catch the stopping train.
Rhode Island Reds they were,
kept for the eggs and kitchen table.
We tarred the wounds of the flock’s victim,
locked the hutch at night with twined wire.
If we left the gate open, two followed us
up the garden. One dared the kitchen,
sitting for a photograph on my shoulder.
I had to kill them when it was time to leave.
The one sitting on my knee was the tamest,
used to pecking seed from warm hands.
She seemed surprised, finding no seed,
not worrying I was going to break her neck.
My father had to fetch the farmer. I cried.
All twelve were gone in a heaven’s blink,
a grubby fiver, then biscuits and a cup of tea.
We sold them for the table. Our own stood empty.
Too poor a food for us in pheasant season.

Like this poem, Bedford’s others are haunting, his collections richly detailed, poignant and at times heart-breaking. He captures our history, our ancestors’ histories and the landscape inhabited by generations.

 
The Bell

They couldn’t afford to buy you a bike,
so bought the bell instead, a Christmas present
wrapped in last week’s newspapers. It still rang.
You clanged it round the house for hours,

then up and down the cobbled yard outside,
excited by all the promise a bell implies.
They never managed the bike. Lost interest.
Forgot it then said you were too old.

You kept the bell instead of photographs.
Photographs can tell lies, those summer smiles
on Sunday School outings, picnics with no cider
and sandwiches of bread and margarine.

You did buy a bike, the year you married,
and kept a promise nobody else knew,
riding the long clouds of purple heather.

 

I recommend you delve into Bedford’s world, be it the Fenlands of Lincolnshire, Mam Tor or Derwent Dam. I can assure you the journey is worth it.

For more information about William visit his web page here.

To order his book visit Red Squirrel’s site here

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William Bedford

William Bedford – Featured Poet

 

bedfordBELTON PARK
i.m. Walter Bedford

In a somer seson, whan softe was the sonne,*
the chauffeur’s son showed me the attics,
long empty corridors and servants’ rooms,
net curtains blowing at cobwebbed windows.

‘They might find us,’ is what I wanted to say,
imagining the crack of autumn guns.
‘They’re away,’ he scoffed, reading my mind:
the family, the servants, priests on the run.

In the library, a visitor worked at his books:
a priestly recorder in a pennyfeather mood,
a yellow waistcoat and hot complexion,
crouched at his words like a smith at the forge.**

In the grounds, under oak and hornbeam,
my father hit the ball to the boundary,
shouting ‘Yes!’ as he raced for the wickets,
still running when the umpire called for tea.

In a somer seson, whan softe was the sonne,
all that was begun ended. Our brief goodbye
and a wave, then the plane taking off
like a cricketer running for the boundary.

*William Langland, The Vision of Piers Plowman.
**A friend of the Brownlow family, Evelyn Waugh was a frequent visitor to Belton House, where he liked to work in the library.

GUY FAWKES
(Humber Estuary: 1955)

The last thing our Guy Fawkes will see
is the sea coming to rescue him.
But the sea won’t reach. The rockets
and Catherine wheels will reach,

but the tide is too low to dowse a fire.
Shrivelled to penny eyes and shells for teeth,
his ashes will drift to the estuary,
his wide mouth leak the oils and tars

of Sheffield’s industrial froth.
Push-netters shrimping the shallows
might have helped if they had hearts,
but they’re ranters and levellers to a man.

Everybody loves a bonfire.
Everybody loves to see Guy Fawkes burned.
The crowds will pay sixpence for fresh crab
and shrimps in brown paper bags.

The last thing our Guy Fawkes will see
is the cocklers and inshore fishermen,
warm in tarred oilskins and sou’westers,
pretending they are boys again,

shouting for the death of the straw man,
the fire of belief in their eyes,
the fists of the future in their hands,
a dance of screaming crowds in the sea.

William Bedford is a prize-winning poet and novelist. Red Squirrel Press published his The Fen Dancing in 2014. His poem ‘The Journey’ won First Prize in the 2014 London Magazine International Poetry Competition. Another poem ‘Then’ won First Prize in the 2014 Roundel Poetry Competition. In the autumn of 2015, Red Squirrel Press published The Bread Horse, a new collection of poems.

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William Bedford’s shed

William

 

WALKING

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.
 
‘Touched,’
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
allowed
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.

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William Bedford wins the Roundel Poetry Competition

WilliamThe winners of the Roundel Poetry Competition were announced last night at a prize-giving ceremony in Tonbridge. As the judge I knew the results a few weeks ago, but was sworn to secrecy and am so glad I can shout them from my website. I was delighted by the entries and there was a very strong group of shortlisted poets. William Bedford took first place with his poem Then, Geraldine Paine’s The Flint Waller was placed second and John Arnold’s A Significant Missed Rendezvous was placed third.

 

Then
 
for Alison Brackenbury
(North Lincolnshire: 1959-1963)

I had to kill them when it was time to go,
take my leave and catch the stopping train.
Rhode Island Reds they were,
kept for the eggs and the kitchen table.
We tarred the wounds of the flock’s victim,
locked the hutch at night with twined wire.
If we left the gate open, two followed us
up the garden. One dared the kitchen,
sitting for a photograph on my shoulder.
I had to kill them when it was time to leave.
The one sitting on my knee was the tamest,
used to pecking seed from warm hands.
She seemed surprised, finding no seed,
not worrying I was going to break her neck.
My father had to fetch the farmer. I cried.
All twelve were gone in a heaven’s blink,
a grubby fiver, then biscuits and a cup of tea.
We sold them for the table. Our own stood empty.
Too poor a food for us in pheasant season.

 

fen-dancing2William Bedford’s new collection 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.

Red Squirrel Press, £7.99 Paperback

William 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 and 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.

Full details can be found on the Roundel website.