Sunday, May 11, 2014

Rhys and Plath: Cheriton and Court Green

The mid-Devon landscape


The following poem was written as part of a long sequence inspired by women writers and the Devon landscape. Jean Rhys and Sylvia Plath both lived in mid-Devon for several years and both women wrote at least one of their most famous texts whilst living in the county. 

The poem was first published by Shearsman, 75 and 76   and appeared in Tessitura, published 2013. 

The photo is not directly linked to either writer or their writing but was taken along the Crediton to Bickleigh road, not far from Cheriton Fitzpaine, where Jean Rhys lived in the 1960's. For me the landscape represents the typical 'sheep-grazed fields' of the mid Devon landscape. 


Rhys and Plath: Cheriton and Court Green

these two at least are drawn toward the heart
not by pulsating blood       were always set apart
agendas written       memories of other coasts
sand-salted air     sea-spray shiftings     ghosts
pursued animal tracks    footsteps they knew
allowed bone instinct              renewed
a tug of roots towards our far west coast
each found a home    a haven    her most
aerial    though anchored   texts spilled out
over night-time tables    dispelling doubt
and fear      these hit hardest during days
when sheep grazed fields in Devon space displaced
the given self   its fretted folds and pleats
to fractured arteries   that beat  beat  beat.

(from Devon Women)

Jean Rhys completed Wide Sargasso Sea whilst living in Cheriton Fitzpaine; Sylvia Plath worked on Ariel in North Tawton