A couple of weeks ago I was privileged to attend the award of the Laurel Prize at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park – just a few miles south of Leeds. The prize is the brainchild of the Poet Laureate Simon Armitage, with its noble aim being to foreground the climate emergency. The winner in this second year of the competition was Linda France, a fellow University of Leeds English graduate and former colleague in the School of English, for her collection, The Knucklebone Floor
. The aim of the prize is to encourage a wide variety of nature and eco-poetical writing. France’s expansive and ingenious collection offers a rich variety in itself as it asks its reader to meditate on different times, identities, and forms – all articulated against the grounds of Allen Banks in Northumberland, now a National Trust property, which Susan Davidson developed in the nineteenth century. Each of its five sections ends with a wonderful lyrical ‘botanical emblem’ dedicated to a single plant species. The last of these is particularly resonant and characteristically delicate:
Botanical Emblem: Black-Eyed Susan
Now you see we,
Now you don’t. We
Are ghost. We
Are les autres, you, we.
Heed the heft of we,
Bloody cleft of we,
Left bereft, we
Keen for we.
Eyes black, we
Redact lack of we,
So you regard we
Lit flower of we,
Bitten fruit of we,
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