Nancy had previously published Meridian (Longbarrow Press, 2019), a long poem that articulates an exploratory journey along the Greenwich Meridian line across Eastern England. Meanwhile, The Drift had been creating semi-improvised music inspired by the landscape around them – the marshes and the dense woodlands of rural Kent. They agreed to collaborate on a new work, where Nancy would explore this extraordinary Kentish landscape, walking from the High Weald down to the coast at Dungeness. Much of the land she traversed is only a few hundred years old, formed by shingle and silt thrown up by storms. This same landscape may only last for another few hundred years, as the sea level continues to rise. Wealden deals with the strata – geological, cultural and historical – that have been laid down over the course of one brief millennium, and considers the imminence of the sea reclaiming it all. The history of the Weald and the marshes is microcosmic of global patterns of human history and of climate change.
The music and the poetry of Wealden were composed in tandem – the music re-worked to underscore the evolving verse, the poetry revised in response to the atmospheres and rhythm of the music. The Drift are an unconventional group, comprising Darren Pilcher, Rob Pursey and Amelia Fletcher. Bass guitar provides the anchor, while harmoniums, melodicas and violin deliver the melodies. Underneath it all, textures and rhythms are derived from loops of sounds sampled from the local environment – the soft rattle of sea shingle, the delicate crackle of dried reeds and the smooth rush of ferns.
A beautifully produced 28-page pamphlet and 28-minute audio CD, Wealden is available now from Longbarrow Press. You can read an extract from the book here, and order it by clicking on the relevant PayPal link below (major debit cards accepted – no PayPal account required).
‘The land is criss-crossed with drainage ditches and natural streams. There are ancient churches that sit isolated on the marsh — the villages that they once served have long since disappeared. And then, where the marshes meet the sea, you have Dungeness. This is a unique environment — it’s a shingle spit, which feels transitory, uncanny, and unstable.’ To mark the release of Wealden, Glenn Francis Griffith talks to Amelia and Rob of The Drift about the origins and development of the project, in which the ‘layers’ of the musical tracks echo the layering of the land. Click here to read the interview. ‘There is something desert-like about this landscape. It has to do with the uncanny, and the way the light bends and reflects, and the deceptiveness of distance.’ All four Wealden collaborators — Nancy, Darren, Amelia and Rob — discuss their relationship to this corner of England in an interview conducted by Marie-Claire Wood for the Alternative Stories and Fake Realities. Click here to listen to the podcast.
Finally, the imminent Sheaf [Digital] Poetry Festival features two appearances from J.R. Carpenter, both of which will draw on her recent Longbarrow collection This is a Picture of Wind. On Friday 20 November, she leads Writing the Wind, a process-oriented workshop in which participants will be invited to explore approaches to writing about climate change and the ‘invisible force’ of the wind. On Saturday 21 November, she appears as part of Playful Hybrid Forms, an event with poet Abi Palmer, who, like Carpenter, works across genre and with interactive media. Click here for details of the festival programme and to book tickets.
Emma Bolland, Brian Lewis, Rob Pursey