Midnight Skies

What a delight it was to find a package wrapped in gold, tied with a purple ribbon and a hand-drawn tag depicting a 'huske of hares' this morning.
Inside the package was a book - Midnight Skies: Exmoor in verse. This is a brand-new anthology of poetry inspired by the moor which lies across parts of north Devon and west Somerset.
I grew up in a little town called South Molton which proclaims itself to be 'the gateway to Exmoor' - and the heathery high-land, peaty streams and deep combes are never far away.
But there is, of course, more to Exmoor than its natural beauty - as Midnight Skies testifies - Exmoor is has been a place of human and natural activity for millennia - a palimpsest, if you will, built on geological and archaeological strata. Up in the high places, a person can see and breathe for miles and miles, and it feels wild and ancient and far from the fervour of modernity.
In 1983, the 'Beast of Exmoor' made national headlines with unexplained sheep killings sparking rumours of a big cat prowling the moor. I remember people wearing 'beast' T-shirts, and someone knew someone who had seen a big cat while driving across the moor at night. I always felt a bit sorry for the beast and hope it died peacefully with a tender lamb inside it.
Herds of Exmoor ponies are stocky and shaggy and still magical if you come across them on the moors - they are marked with oaten 'mealy mouths' and can be traced back several thousand years.
There are many stone fragments and paths from ancient times. Barrows and tor points and buzzards and larks.
Midnight Skies is about all these things, and more. It is dedicated to Hope Bourne, writer and artist, who lived self-sufficiently, with a gun and a vegetable plot in a caravan at Ferny Ball, a remote hill in Exmoor.  It is a beautiful book, packed with poems that, as Margaret Drabble says, 'draw their spirit from the land itself'.
I have a poem in there called Exile. But among my favourites of the sixty poems is Crossing-Keepers by Jane Mares which gracefully embodies a herd of ponies coming across the moorland as the spirit of the moor itself:

"Custodians of the crossing-places,
Keepers of the ancient pathways -
Travel safely, little Exmoors,
On through many future centuries."

You can buy Midnight Skies, edited by Atisha McGregor Auld, here - http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/atisha+mcgregor+auld/midnight+skies/10012240/


  1. Well done, Sarah - nice to meet you in the book! Tilla Brading


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