our huge ruined villages, give way as
dimpled fields tilt to the Fen
and the treeless otherworld begins.
The great dykes with their glinting load,
brown winter floods, fields’ wasteful run,
planted too soon. Are there machines
which rear and dip from the firm road,
scoop glistening banks, clear rotted leaves?
A stone-blocked pipe, a tumble tree-
When a man slides down with a spade,
Beats back dead nettles, elder’s switch,
sunk from sky as under sea,
dig, sweats and clears the gurgling ditch.
My house again. My bones and heart ache
In every joist.
Waterman wanted to collate a range of voices in this book and saw it as a response to Ian Park’s Versions of the North: Contemporary Yorkshire Poetry. Setting out to showcase the poetry that was inspired by land ‘where sky and Lincolnshire and water meet,’ the fenlands are England’s second biggest county, but often a land overlooked.
The more recent ‘bastard countryside’ of mud, litter and graffiti is nicely summed up in his poem 'Pulling over to Inspect a Pillbox with a North American Tourist.' This rings true of the wasteland the Fens have become today - a home to scrapyards and dog kennels, food processing plants and used tyre collections, concrete pillar boxes and rusting Nissan huts. Nonetheless, this landscape still has the ability to inspire poetry. I can recommend this collection to anyone who has ever driven over this vast flat land on the way to somewhere else, and been curious to discover just who is it that chooses to live here?