Longbarrow Press looks back on its sixteenth year of activity with a round-up of the essays, projects and publications of 2021:
The year’s first post on the Longbarrow Blog is ‘Reach’ by Mark Goodwin & Nikki Clayton, an exploration, through photographs and short poems, of a darkened Bradgate Park in the last hours of 2020. Click here to view the post. A further post by Goodwin & Clayton looks back at a winter walk through Leicestershire’s medieval villages, ‘gathering’ the light laid down in ‘feathery specks’ of snow. Click here to read ‘Gather’.
#2 January. ‘Left at the corrugated autocentre, the same flagpole, a different flag. It used to be a chequered racing flag and now it is a union flag, or half of a union flag. The other half is missing, worn away by wind, nothing more than wind.’ ‘Second Delivery’, a sequel (of sorts) to the Lockdown Walks diarised by Brian Lewis during April 2020, appears on the Longbarrow Blog. This ‘winter postscript’ documents the delivery route taken by Lewis – spanning north, west and south Sheffield – shortly before Christmas (and renewed lockdowns). You can read it here.
Rhyme all the ways a city battens down.
Say, river waters tide the roads to town.
The publication of Little Piece of Harm by Chris Jones, a narrative sequence that focuses on 24 hours in the life of a city that has been shut down in the aftermath of a shooting. As this act of violence ramifies outwards, the sequence explores the geographical reach of Sheffield – its urban settings and its rural landmarks – and eavesdrops on the city’s conversations. A handsomely produced 40-page pamphlet, Little Piece of Harm is accompanied by three short essays by Jones. ‘I wanted to kick-start the storytelling by focusing on an event that would literally stop a city.’ The first essay introduces the principal themes of the sequence, and (briefly) attempts to reconstruct its blueprint, then reflects on the ways in which the developing narratives depart from the initial plots. Click here to read ‘Story Arcs and Safety Nets’. ‘I think the formal design of terza rima, how it makes you run on the lines and harness a persistent iambic beat, also enacts the rhythm of walking.’ In the second essay, Jones considers ‘the “scaffolding” of rhyming structures’ and the role of this ‘scaffolding’ in developing tone and voice in the sequence. Click here to read ‘A City’s Designs’. ‘Sheffield is a central character in Little Piece of Harm. The city is a palimpsest that provides texture and depth to individuals’ comprehension of place, and to the overall narrative of their lives.’ The final essay considers the new work’s thematic and structural debt to an earlier project, and the ‘creative variations’ that arise from revisiting ideas and tropes over the course of a writing life. Click here to read ‘The Long Goodbye’.
#4 April. ‘To climb is to ‘place’ – very carefully – one’s feet & hands & body. This placing of parts of one’s self so as to fit stone holds or tree branches makes a series of very small but intense places. Such holds are places in miniature, and because they are miniature they are condensed.’
Mark Goodwin‘s ‘Oak & Stone’ is a short prose reflection (and accompanying poem) that juxtaposes memories of ‘miniature landscapes’ with an unresolved quest for ‘Crag X … a crag of the imagination’. Click here to read it.
Somewhere in Tethys’ salty darkness,
in spurts of milt and billowing roe, eels
are birthing their posterity, a spore-storm of eggs
in uncountable centillions, each buoyed
on its micron of oil.
Steve Ely‘s The European Eel appears from Longbarrow Press. This book-length poem (with illustrations by P.R. Ruby) imagines the life cycle, ecological contexts and enigma of the charismatic and critically endangered fish. Based on Ely’s in-depth engagement with the scientific literature, discussions with leading eel researchers and conservationists, and hands-on experience with the eel in river systems across the country and abroad, The European Eel is unique not only in its sustained birth-to-death focus on the eel, but in the vivid way the eel’s riverine and marine habitats are evoked and articulated—and in its portrayal of the daunting array of anthropogenic threats that are currently threatening this once common species with extinction. ‘Because so much of the lifecycle and ecological context of the European eel is unknown or merely hypothesised—that is, as much defined by absence as by presence—it leaves lots of space in which the imagination can roam. In The European Eel I have created a ‘Body of Dark’ for the eel and projected the species into it.’ In an accompanying post for the Longbarrow Blog, Ely recounts the origins and development of The European Eel, in which months of scientific research, conservation work and field studies create a space for ‘the transformative imagination’. Click here to read ‘Body of Dark’.
#7 October. ‘There are for us, it seems, so many competing futures. So many glances this way or that, and so many story—lines … leading away … The only certainty is: places exist for us only as long as there are people to breathe them.’ Mark Goodwin considers questions of access to ‘place’, and the ‘unpeopled’ landscapes of lockdown, in a text for the Longbarrow Blog, which accompanies a film-poem co-created with Henry Iddon. Click here to read (and watch) ‘All at Once’.
I can’t believe I’m here, you have to think,
then chuckle softly, which is kind of apt
because I’m not.
A long poem, a short book, an impossible journey. Pete Green‘s Hemisphere tells the story of a circular voyage which proceeds from the Hebrides around the north Atlantic, Alaska and Siberia, then finally back to Europe. Along the way, the protagonist visits a doomsday seed vault, a giant qwerty keyboard, a boundary between Tuesday and Wednesday, the world’s largest island on a lake on an island on a lake on an island, two pubs and an Arctic coffee bar. Hemisphere is also a meta-travel narrative which poses questions about who has permission to practise ‘place writing’, and explores the power of imagination to push back against our ongoing personal lockdowns. This ‘short book’ is illustrated by Abi Goodman, and is discussed in ‘The confessions of a virtual tourist, or how and why I wrote Hemisphere’, a short essay for the Longbarrow Blog, in which Green considers the ‘literature of place’ and the (frequently privileged) ‘social composition of its authorship’, and explores alternative approaches to place writing. Click here to read it.
The sky’s pale blue
as blotting paper. The moon
rise: a big thumbs-up.
Our first poetry walk since 2019 is led by Chris Jones: a series of ascents and descents through the north-west Sheffield landscapes of his pamphlet Little Piece of Harm. Lost Horizons is a one-off event that spans the peaks of Stannington and the lowlands of Bradfield, via Storrs, Dungworth, and Damflask Reservoir, animated by the conversations and sightings that occur along the way, and Chris’s readings from Little Piece of Harm, a sequence that imagines a flight from a city under lockdown.
#10 December. And Other Stories, Longbarrow Press, The Poetry Business and Vertebrate Publishing embark on a two-week residency in Sheffield’s Moor Market as SHIP (Sheffield Independent Publishers). The pop-up bookshop is run as a collective endeavour, and, as well as offering an opportunity to browse and buy poetry, fiction, international literature and outdoor books from the four publishers, creates a forum for informal, friendly exchanges with the reading public. Click here to read a Twitter thread documenting the fourth day at the bookshop. ‘I picked up other things there, things that were not immediately useful, things that I knew would be useful in time. There was a narrow aisle set aside for wordless contemplation. It became my favourite shop.’ The changing relationship between the city’s retail units and public spaces is among the themes taken up in ‘Last Collection’, an excerpt from a work-in-progress by Brian Lewis that draws on an afternoon’s walk around Sheffield, posted on the Longbarrow Blog at the close of 2021. You can read it here.
Our thanks to everyone who has supported the press over the last 12 months; we return in 2022 with a new series of projects, publications and events, including titles by Angelina D’Roza and Rob Hindle. Further details will be posted later in the year.
Photographs: Emma Bolland, Nikki Clayton, Henry Iddon, Brian Lewis.