MAP READING FOR BEGINNERS
Deborah Harvey lives and writes in Bristol. Her poems have won several prizes, including the 2010 Wells International Poetry Competition, the 2011 Dor Kemmyn Poetry Competition, the 2012 Pre-Raphaelite Society Prize and the 2013 Buzzwords Gloucestershire Prize.
Deborah’s first collection of poetry, Communion, was published by Indigo Dreams in 2011. Her novel, Dart, about life on Dartmoor during the Black Death, was published under their Tamar Books imprint in February 2013. Map-Reading for Beginners is her second poetry collection.
Deborah is a trustee of Poetry Can, the poetry development agency for the south-west of England. In her free time she indulges in extreme rambling with her border collie, Ted.
She is particularly interested in folklore and the social history of the middle ages and the early modern period. She is often to be found loitering in ancient buildings, country lanes and churchyards.
Illustration by Dru Marland
Map reading For Beginners
Indigo Dreams Publishing
138 x 216mm
£7.99 + P&P UK
Narcissus Goes Shopping
He breaks his journey home at Wells,
dishevelled and out of sorts,
dressed in yesterday’s
socks and shirt, his overnight bag
on his kitchen table
where he left it.
She tries to distract him
with offers of coffee, a stroll
down what was once Grope Lane,
or around the impossibly romantic moat
to witness the mute swans ringing and ringing
the bell for bread crumbs.
As he checks his reflection
in plate glass windows, she inhales
spilt Merlot, the salt stains
of last night’s songs,
mapping his warm and secret creases,
his hidden hollows.
Beyond the cubicle curtain
he fastens buttons, lustred shell slipping
smooth and cool between his fingers.
He emerges pristine from his chrysalis.
By their cars as they kiss, she can hear
an evening bell echo.
Tipping The Balance
Let winter steal this March on spring
falling backwards into snowlight,
its blinding victory.
It’s not about green and yellow,
the glow of celandines or whether
miserly beeches are still pocketing their coppers
We’ll measure the turning year in light,
throw the wolf and lion into the balance,
let afternoons trickle into evening,
evening out the hours of dark
and as night comes
hurtling into morning,
wake to the beating of wings
warm as migratory kisses
The floating harbour is dark
beneath its lustre. September
slumbers into dusk.
The people around you drinking coffee,
that girl lounging on the pontoon
(the one in jeans
the pink of ice cream),
her friend, and the doggedly
jogging man will soon
be making their journey home
to whatever awaits them.
And you too will leave this moment,
return to the pieces of a life
that can never fit back together
the way they did before.
But for now sit. Watch the wind’s
fingerprints smudging the surface
of the Reach.
Resolve to remember
the mutable beauty
of broken water.
The Poet And The Boatman
Tidal here and salt
the final turn of Teign
before its fretful merging with the sea
creates a harbour in the lee of land,
this curved blood-coloured beach.
Through mist that lifts like linen wraiths
I glimpse the poet stripping off
his white ballooning shirt and britches,
bathing in a manner
far from gentlemanly
the water’s cold, he’ll catch a chill
while over here a boatman’s sanding smooth
a newly mended hull.
He’ll check the caulk is watertight
before he ventures out to rescue souls
condemned to airless death.
Both men are bright-faced,
close in age,
yet they’ll never share a jar
for by the time the boatman’s posted here,
John Keats is twelve years dead.
no one could have saved the poet
from drowning in his blood
Instead the boatman heads for breakfast,
and John is gone with a flap of his red-stained shirt
to flirt with the sleep-soft girls
stirring in their beds
above the bonnet shop.
Driving John Home
If we’d set out with intent, licked a finger,
held it up to tell which way the equinoctal
wind was blowing,
hunkered under midnight’s coats
out of range of those long, preternaturally
If we’d adopted some disguise,
engaged the complicity of trees,
my hair dishevelled, snagged on twigs
the cap you’d have donned to stymie
moonshine wreathed with ghosts
of broken leaves
If we’d watched a warrior tribe creep
circumspectly from its sett,
rootling for worms in fern
and raking grubs from bark with iron claws,
such an encounter couldn’t have been
any more extraordinary
than our glimpse of badgers
momentarily frozen to the tarmac
of Parry’s Lane,
who trot into view
when I close my eyes,
fossick through my dreams.
I should not be astounded.
Brocks are native to these parts,
their pads remember lost obliterated tracks.
Yet in that instant, with hairy serendipity
they were moon-snared Muses
Map Reading For Beginners
Put the sat nav in the boot.
Follow your own arterial route,
the tunnelling lanes that take you down
to where the stories first began,
where fox and hare listen in bracken,
ravens chat across the silence of the sky.
In the moss-dark holy well
a nadder bites its stripy tail,
completes the circle.
Your turquoise tracery of veins
a buried poet
with a fruit tree growing through her,
whose fractal dreams are carved
by beetles under bark.
The horse is white, not grey. Not
a runaway from a field. Nobody here or hereabouts
owns a white horse.
What’s more, your dog, the Kerry Blue,
is doing what dogs do when they chance
on the uncanny,
standing motionless and staring
at the shore where Saint Columba
made his landing.
This horse is whiter than any dove,
so bright it stings your eyes
sears itself into your mind,
drags your hesitant feet
towards the brooding Sound,
as it surges over shingle, rocky skerries,
vanishing behind sheer cliffs,
When you reach the tideline
the beast will be gone.
You’ll see no hoof prints in the sand
and you’ll question the memory of a horse,
dreamt from spindrift,
beating its ancient bounds,
even as your dog
explores and sniffs, barks for you
to throw her sticks.
“An authentic sense of travelling through history as well as through the complexities and ironies of place illuminate this confident new collection. Deborah Harvey’s use of language is clean and fresh, and she draws with energy and purpose on archival material, such as the records of the Bristolian topographer William Wyrcestre mapping the city in 1480, or the wreck of the SS Nornen off Berrow Flats in 1897. Her voice remains however contemporary and deeply responsive to the beauty and vulnerability of the natural world. Highly recommended.”
“Deborah Harvey’s … poems are raw and true. She is the real thing.”
“Imagine a raven skilfully playing upon the air above a lonely Dartmoor tor, and you might get a sense of her subtle, dark and beautiful, glistening poems.” Colin Brown