John Wedgwood Clarke
John Wedgwood Clarke was born in St Ives, Cornwall in 1969. He trained as an actor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, before going on to study literature and completing a D.Phil. in Modernist poetry at the University of York. He set up the Beverley Literature and Bridlington Poetry Festivals, and ran them for ten years, before leaving to pursue a full-time career in writing and editing, as well as teaching Creative Writing at the University of Hull, and more recently at the University of Exeter.
His debut pamphlet Sea Swim was published by Valley Press in April 2012, the result of an invigorating artistic initiative described by Carol Ann Duffy as 'a simple and simply beautiful idea.' September 2013 saw the publication of John's highly-acclaimed first full-length collection, Ghost Pot, which featured scenery and wildlife from the North Yorkshire coast.
In June 2014, John's series of poems inspired by the snickets, passageways, courts and yards of York were published in a pamphlet titled In Between, and appeared on the walls of the city as part of the York Curiouser festival. His second full-length collection of poetry, titled Landfill, was mostly inspired by a residency at Scarborough's dump, and was published in September 2017.
Paperback currently out of stock. A Read Regional Choice for 2015.
John Wedgwood Clarke’s first full-length collection begins with the mesmerizing and disturbing image of the ‘Ghost Pot’ – a lobster creel that, torn free from its mooring, drifts along the sea-bed, continuing to catch lobsters until it is rediscovered, ‘crammed to the throat with bony shields’.
Returning to the coastline vividly described in his debut pamphlet Sea Swim, these new poems add depth and variation to a body of work fast-becoming the definitive literary take on the seafront vistas of North Yorkshire. Bays, cliffs, frets and a ‘Brigg’ are populated by deftly- portrayed sea creatures, half-glimpsed residents with ‘voices the moon defines’, their ‘yellow winter pub-talk clacking down wet steps’, and landmarks, including the rusting industrial relics of the iron-ore industry on which Clarke observes the ‘irreversible flowerings of a bolt’.
Ghost Pot is a powerful, cohesive sequence which marks the arrival of a significant and original talent.
York’s secret history lies in its snickets, passageways, courts and yards – all of those in-between, out of the way routes: walk them and you inhabit history.
In a newly-commissioned sequence of site-specific poems for York Curiouser, John Wedgwood Clarke explores the way people have shaped and been shaped by these transitional places. To read the poems is to haunt these hidden ways and to be haunted by them; to fill yourself with the breath and spirit of an extraordinary city.
“Totally successful – evokes specific places in the city without being too parochial. I envy his precise, economic style. His York is a place of light as much as a place built out of stone. The present is consubstantial with the past here. Oh yes – and I like the little details, the observation. It's just great.”
— Ian Stuart
If the history of civilisation has been a journey away from our rubbish, John Wedgwood Clarke’s Landfill seeks to reverse that route, taking us behind the chain-link fence of the dump to witness the sublime mess we’ve made of things.
He marvels at the ‘confessions of a people’, at archaeology in the making, with poems about old cookers, fridges, fluorescent tubes and heaps of plastic bottles. Out of their usual locations, these objects become strangely eloquent about the shape of our lives.
Acknowledging that the beautiful view and decluttered house depend on the dump, Clarke responds here with neither cynicism nor sentiment; instead offering a fresh perspective on a vital yet hidden part of our world.
‘Clarke has found rich pickings in the landfill, with line after line worth lingering over for its subtleties. His high-definition observation is informed by an ecologist’s eye, its scientific knowledge lightly worn.’ – Philip Gross
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