Andrew Forster (Literature Development Officer, currently working for the Wordsworth Trust, administrator of the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets), 2014
Andrew Forster was born in South Yorkshire but lived in Scotland for 20 years, before moving to Cumbria in 2008. After 14 years working with adults with learning disabilities, he worked on a number of community writing projects before becoming Literature Development Officer for Dumfries & Galloway in 2003. He is currently Literature Officer for the Wordsworth Trust in Grasmere and administrator of the Michael Marks Awards for Poetry Pamphlets.
His poems have appeared in many magazines and anthologies. He has published three full-length collections of poetry. The first, ‘Fear of Thunder’, was shortlisted for the Forward Prize for Best First Collection, and poems from it are included in the AQA GCSE anthology. He has also published a pamphlet collaboration with the artist and printmaker Hugh Bryden, ‘Digging’ (Roncadora press 2010).
Dress Rehearsals Flarestack 2000
Digging Roncadora 2010
Fear of Thunder Flambard 2007
Territory Flambard 2010
Homecoming Smith doorstop 2014
They emerge when day has bleached from the sky
through a sliver of space beneath the roof:
two, I think, but they’re so fast they vanish
and reappear from somewhere else,
each a shallow wave where they jerk
the membrane that serves for wings,
tiny mouths screaming to map the landscape.
They’re bad luck, darkness, winged rats
flitting through crowded tenements,
or flying souls, our last spark
given form in the dusk as it leaves us.
In Levens a whole colony funneled
between the trees and we stood beneath,
altered by their sudden current.
I remember the dead one on the gravel:
brown fur coarse as wire wool, wings a cape,
face wizened and faintly human,
the oldest man that ever was.
It had dropped from another world, as if
what we see in flight is a privileged glimpse
of something we must fail to understand.
After bare sun on crags and the sultry stillness
of Alcock Tarn, it’s a relief to descend
through bracken as day eases into evening.
Greenhead Ghyll splashes, sweetening the air.
Across it there’s a sheepfold: worn by rain
and wind, uneven where stones have worked loose
or sections collapsed, but it’s still there, gaps
opening to separate pens, a refuge.
On his walks Wordsworth spoke to shepherds
who scratched a living from thin soil
as their families had: who knew the hills
like rooms in their own cottages.
They watched their children, through choice
or need, leave for the city, and knew
their land must pass to other hands.
He stared at the sheepfold until his head ached,
gave them his poem like a cry for help.
Now, houses clutter the lower slopes
windows drinking in these hills.
A few cars are parked in drives, the odd voice
rides the breeze but most of the houses
are empty. A runner almost knocks me over
as he thunders down the Fell.
Explore Andrew Forster’s blog
A complete reading, from Manchester Poets and Players, can be viewed here.
A brief comment from Andrew Forster about being in Greece, in 2014
Being included in the trip to Greece as administrator for the Michael Marks Awards was an opportunity to experience first-hand the residency I had previously sent poets on, to meet in person colleagues at the Center for Hellenic Studies whom I had corresponded with over a number of years, and to explore ways we might develop the residency for future winners of the Michael Marks Award. It was a unique opportunity to see a country in the company of generous hosts who were so willing to share their knowledge of it, as well as sharing our interest in literature.
My own poetry is very much focused on a sense of place. My second book ‘Territory’ focused on the small village of Leadhills in South West Scotland, and my latest collection, ‘Homecoming’, on Cumbria: it’s landscape, history, and natural history. Greece is a beautiful country with such a visible history that I couldn’t fail to find poems there. I left with a full notebook which I think I will be drawing on for some time to come.