Words from the Drifting Village…..
The division between country and city is fading fast and these poems document the ragged edge of our contemporary ideas of the rural and the sublime. Ever since the initial enthusiasm of early Green movement there has been a stark choice for modern farming. Factory methods or die. In Last Farmer Shaun Belcher documents this fading agricultural golden age that never was and shows the human side of over-zealous pesticide salesmen and downtrodden rural labourers. The golden pastures that never were here fade into golf-courses and all night shopping malls.
Growing up in what used to be Berkshire before a line on the map was rewritten, these poems excavate the tragic spoiling of not just the soil itself but of those that depended upon it. Gone are the happy country swains and in their place come the refugees herded into white vans at midnight and lost at the station at daybreak. Belcher has been described as vituperative. Certainly there is an anger in these words about what has and is still being lost.
Alongside these stark tombstones to the countryside are some explorations of what growing up in the middle of England in the mid-20th century really meant. Belcher draws on rural myth and folktale as well as American popular culture so there is a keen sense of how all of this impacts on the sense of ‘Englishness’. Raised but a stone’s throw from the glittering prizes and towers of Oxford this is the other side of the fence writing drawing on a deep sense of working-class roots that is still looking for a common tongue.
“… a concern for language and for how it shapes memory and identity.” — Anna Crowe
“Belcher cannot be accused of nostalgia or pastoral myth-making but is as vituperative in tone as Larkin. — Raymond Friel
“… the poems… individually and cumulatively preserve aspects of identity and genealogy rooted in a particular soil and way of life……an underlying humaneness.” — Stewart Conn
Shaun Belcher is a multimedia artist and poet, originally from Oxford, now an academic lecturer in Nottingham. He has written poetry since his mid-20’s, influenced by his rural upbringing as well as wider themes of dislocation and global technologies. Last Farmer is his first publication.