Publicity director Camilla Elworthy introduces Adlestrop, a poem by Edward Thomas.
‘ADLESTROP!’ yelled John Sampson from the passenger seat. It was June 2016 and I was driving a carload of poets and our musical MC from Chipping Norton to Monmouth as part of the Shore 2 Shore tour. I swung the vehicle round and we headed down a Cotswolds lane in the direction of the road sign spotted by John. It was particularly magical to happen upon this high place of poetry, as the final line of Edward Thomas’s poem is echoed at the end of ‘The Counties’ by Carol Ann Duffy, which she read at each gig on the tour, the audience unfailingly murmuring it back to her. As we pulled up, we shared an awed, moved silence, broken only by – what else? – the song of a blackbird. We’re all off again on tour this month; who knows if we’ll encounter such hallowed ground this time but we’re much looking forward to celebrating poetry and independent bookshops as we travel once more from shore to shore. I hope you can join us along the way.
Yes. I remember Adlestrop—
The name, because one afternoon
Of heat the express-train drew up there
Unwontedly. It was late June.
The steam hissed. Someone cleared his throat.
No one left and no one came
On the bare platform. What I saw
Was Adlestrop—only the name
And willows, willow-herb, and grass,
And meadowsweet, and haycocks dry,
No whit less still and lonely fair
Than the high cloudlets in the sky.
And for that minute a blackbird sang
Close by, and round him, mistier,
Farther and farther, all the birds
Of Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire.
Shore 2 Shore will be taking place in bookshops around the UK from 16th-23rd June 2018.
Find out more about the 2018 poetry tour, and buy tickets, here.
Photo: copyright Camilla Elworthy.