There's something in the air...

180 years ago, a once famous poet decided to leave the asylum he lad lived in for three years, and walk the 80-odd miles up the Great North Road to his home in Northborough on the very fringe of the fens, just a few miles north of Peterborough.  The poet was of course, John Clare, and very troubled of mind he trekked the route virtually feeling his way, mile after mile.  In 2020/21 there must be something in the air, for there are four new books that explore his famous walk.  

The first, 'The Descending Spiral' (Roger Rowe : Arbour Editions Chapbook No.16), seeks to examine Clare's state of mind during that fateful year.  A year that saw him escape from one asylum in the Summer of 1841 only to be committed to another just after Christmas.  The evidence for this exploration of the confused mind of the poet was and is his vast output of verse and prose written during the year.

The second book, 'Love's Cold Returning' (Ellis Hall & Bridget Somekh' : Thirteen Eighty One Press), is an exploration in prose and poetry, with numerous colour photographs, seeking out the remains of Clare's world in the twenty-first century, of the route he took and the folk he met.  Moving from canals and aqueducts to gridlocked roads, from common land and open heath to land banks and intensive agriculture. Truly a detective story, a historical adventure and a meditation on love and loss.

The third book, 'Child Harold' (Roger Rowe : Arbour Editions Chapbook No.20), contains the actual text of Child Harold, it is believed for the first time in a dedicated volume.  The text is fairly well known, but it is ordered in the way outlined briefly by Clare scholar Salman Al Wasiti in an appendix to his PhD thesis in the 1970s.  The order of Clare's Child Harold poems has been debated for 50 years, but not published in this form until now.

The fourth book, to be published in June 2021, 'A Length of Road' (Robert Hamberger : John Murray Press), is a part memoir, part travel-writing, part literary criticism, it is a deeply profound and poetic exploration of class, gender, grief and sexuality through the author's own experiences and through the autobiographical writing of poet John Clare. Clare attempting to return to his idealized first love, Mary, unaware that she had died three years earlier.