21

The first in a new, probably occasional, or more likely, immediately forgotten series of “things that are not ‘poetry’…but really are.”

Nan Shepherd’s book; written in the 1940s rejected by one publisher and put in a drawer for 35 years. A stone cold classic, every word a drop of honey. At only 100-odd pages it is a two or three hour read, but I would imagine a life-time’s reflection. Not to mention re-reads. It is not about conquering peaks or munro-bagging, it is about living with nature, more precisely recognising yourself as being a part of a particular landscape, particularly the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland and about noticing; being attentive. And of then being talented enough to record and relay it in such a way as to make people want to read and re-read. It is a poem and it is also a collection of poems. If I were remotely religious I might call it a hymn. But I’m not, so I won’t.

This edition has an introduction by Robert MacFarlane that is beautiful and wise; praises with rare accuracy and attention but leaves room for the book to shine through on its own merit when you come to read it. And he references one of my favourite poets, Gary Snyder (Japhy Ryder of Kerouac’s Dharma Bums peon to mountains, tokay and zen philosophy) which can only ever be a good thing.

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