Thursday, May 31, 2012

Richard Skelton, Landings


A century's passing and the listening

rattle. Crows bicker in the trees

overhead. Rhymed leaves. Dew Grass.

Wing skirr. Engine. Siren. Machinic

murmur. Threads across the river.

Collective memory. Left to nettles

and to barbed wire.

When the flowerville blogger sent me this poem by Richard Skelton, knowing I am thinking about how barbed wire has been construed in literature, I went looking for the book Landings.

I found it in/on/at a spare and beautiful blog. When I decided to order the book and the accompanying music, the link took me to another striking site. My order elicited a personal email:

Dear Scott

Just a quick note to say your Landings is in the post. Here's the tracking number: RJ962567042GB, which you can track at

With many thanks and warmest wishes


The book arrived, royal mail indeed, with handwritten address.

Inside, the book was carefully wrapped in tissue. I washed my hands before I opened it.

 There was a note enclosed. The book was signed.

Landings breathes silence with its generously white pages, marked by type only where necessary.

The landscape, including the ruins of human habitation, of the West Pennine Moors is a subject of the book and of the music recorded on the moors. A related subject is loss. Another is language, names.

The book's notes are as interesting as the poems and quotations and thoughts that make up the main text.

For instance:

25 {many of these places have names} The question of names, name-giving and remembrance is, for me, a recurring one. Names become physical. . . . Place-names are embodied, and are subject to the same bodily process of change and decay. The question then becomes one of tenure, of endurance. How long can they last? . . . Maps are vital repositories of our knowledge of place. They enshrine the collective memory— recording not only what is current, but what is deemed worth holding onto from the past. But in so doing, they enforce a mononymous relationship between name and place—rarely does any location receive more than a single epithet. Yet this fact belies the complex relationship we have with our surroundings, and the many different ways in which we express our sense of place. Shouldn't there be room on maps for local names, folk-names and familial names; for narrative, personality and myth? What happened to the polyonymy of place?

Among the names Skelton reclaims from the place fallen into disuse is our family name: Abbott.

In 1696 a John Abbott of Anglezarke was church-warden at Rivington.

John Abbott is my brother. Was my brother. His birthday is four days from now. He died in 1991 at the age of 40.

In a very ruinous state. 

Ravaged by AIDS.

John Herbert Abbott. Also known as Jay.

Below the name of the book on the title page, Richard Skelton prints the name of his lost wife: Louise Skelton.

Landings worked a profound quiet into my being. A melancholy and meaningful stillness for which I am grateful.

"The barbed wire stretched across the landscape was like the strings on an instrument."


* said...

it's good isnt it. also washed my hands, his mail is always so special and diligent, like fresh fallen snow or something and you dont want to spoil it. and i thought the abbott farm too when i recommended it to you,.
and the elaborate index is beautiful.
like what you say that profound quiet, this effect i get too from his stuff which is why maybe i like so much to listen to his music when i take photos. there is so much going on in his music or writing it's hard to put it all in words. or well not hard at all, gratitude for this being in the world and experiencing the world in yet another wonderful aspect..or through another wonderful view...

Scott Abbott said...

this being in the world -- that's it exactly.