On ‘White Thorns’ | Brian Lewis

White thorns, spinning sky,
each horizontal axis
sings the trinity.
One zenith, then another,
the crowns abide in the air.

Between the towns of Doncaster, Scunthorpe and Goole, less than 10 metres above sea level, 100 square miles of sparsely populated, predominantly agricultural land lie flat to the horizon. The low levels form the northern part of the Isle of Axholme, most of which belongs to North Lincolnshire, with outlying parcels in the East Riding and South Yorkshire. This reclaimed marshland is the setting of White Thorns, a sequence of poems that developed from several walks in 2016 and 2017.

The area is bounded on the east by the Trent, and on the north by the Ouse; at Blacktoft Sands, the confluence of the two rivers forms the Humber. In the 1620s, the Dutch engineer Cornelius Vermuyden was commissioned to drain the low-lying land of Hatfield Chase, a process that brought an end to the ‘islanding’ (or flooding) of Axholme, and also transformed much of the surrounding landscape. As part of the drainage project, Vermuyden re-routed the rivers Don and Idle, creating a new channel, the Dutch River, to the north, with a terminus at Goole. The Stainforth and Keadby canal, opened in 1802, links the Don in the west to the Trent in the east; its course through the isle runs parallel to the railway line, just below the villages of Ealand, Crowle and Keadby. A third parallel is provided by the M180, shadowing the railway and canal at a distance of a mile or so, and, with the M18 (linking Doncaster to Goole), effecting a contemporary ‘islanding’ of North Axholme to the south and west.

Since the middle ages, the area has been regarded as a source of fuel, with small-scale peat cutting on Thorne Moors preparing the ground for commercial extraction; by the 1980s, increasingly intensive methods had stripped large areas of the raised peat bog. A colliery – frequently troubled by flooding and faults, and mostly unproductive – also fissured the moors: the pithead was eventually demolished in 2014, and the resurfaced site is now home to a solar park. A few miles south, at Nun Moors, a 22-turbine wind farm stands at the edge of the Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve. Six miles east, near Keadby, rising 90 metres from the flatlands, is a 34-turbine array; the largest onshore wind farm in England. It’s a dynamic illustration of how the exploration and extraction of energy continues to shape this landscape, the wheeling mesh of towers, hubs and blades visible throughout North Axholme, from arable field to depleted mire. It also invites us to consider the expansion of the grid laid down by Vermuyden, its field lines and drainage channels criss-crossed by the remnants of a light railway (serving passengers until 1933, and the peat works until 1963) and, latterly, the buried networks of utility cables and pipes, while, to the south and east, the skies are latticed with power-lines, the net thickening at Keadby, where, between the Warping Drain and the power station, the pylons and turbines seem to meet and interlace, white compasses turning through grey parallels.

On high, a freehold
of six thousand square metres
threshed by a rotor.
All the feathering threefold
swept into pitch cylinders.

I entered this grid through another: OS Landranger Sheet 112, which I studied before starting out, a new edition, the blank squares filling up with clustered blades. The walks began in Ealand, shortly after dawn on 25 March 2016 (Good Friday), and ended in Thorne around 15 months later, the last of these being an anti-clockwise tour of North Axholme, from dusk until the following afternoon. These weren’t so much linear or circular journeys as transits of a square, or squares within squares, the line (of towpath, track, or minor road) almost always straight, the direction (reset at each corner of the isle) undivided. At certain points in the walks – an intersection of canal and bridge, a chain of pylons making a 90-degree turn – my head would fill with right angles, some imagined, some real, rising out of the flat terrain and my unfamiliarity with the landscape. All this was heightened by walking at night, the senses manufacturing events from scraps of sound (waterfowl in the soak drains, the faint hum of an electric current) and patches of available light (the moon in the water, a signalman’s lamp), and always the filigree of infrastructure, the pylons and turbines compressed to a single plane, the distance collapsed, become abstract, then suddenly present, almost measurable, perception sharpened and distorted by turns, the mind filling in the blanks.

There’s another kind of compression at work in the 68 poems of White Thorns: an isle-wide trek distilled into a series of five-line, thirty-one syllable units, each, perhaps, expanding into its own space, its own plot. There are other passages through this landscape, too, including that of the freight train bearing wood pellets from Louisiana to North Yorkshire (via the Humberhead Peatlands, which sits atop the blackened trunks of a Paleolithic forest, burned by the Romans), and its own story of exhaustion and recovery:

Slow burn, right to left,
twenty-four frames per second.
Twenty-four wagons
of biomass, bound for Drax,
a forest’s offcuts and husks.

 

White Thorns is the second pamphlet by Brian Lewis (following East Wind, a sequence of lyrical essays and haiku, which appeared from Gordian Projects in 2015). It is published by Gordian Projects as a hand-stitched pamphlet with hand-stamped covers, and comes with an individual poem, presented in an envelope as an artist’s multiple.

To order White Thorns, please click on the relevant PayPal link below:

UK orders (£5 + £0.90 postage)

Europe orders (£5 + £2.70 postage)

Rest of World orders (£5 + £3.30 postage)

Listen to Brian Lewis read 9 poems from ‘White Thorns’ on location at Keadby Wind Farm, 2 December 2017: 

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New Titles and Readings at Small Publishers, London, 10&11 November

We are delighted to be launching three new titles at Small Publishers, Conway Hall, London, 10&11 November, together with a hosted reading as part of the events programme

Ornament of Damage, a photo-book with poems and essay by Azadeh Fatehrad is an exploration of Iranian photographic imagery from the archives in Frankfurt-Am-Main and Stockholm. During the process of digitisation, images became distorted, disrupted and altered, disfiguring and removing the subjects from view.

 

 

 

 

 

 

White Thorns by Brian Lewis is his second pamphlet exploring the infrastructure and landscape of the East Coast. Comprising sequences of verse, and an artists’ multiple, White Thorns builds on the work of East Wind, his first pamphlet for Gordian Projects.

Penny Whitworth‘s Three Films seeks to translate the abstract and formal elements of analogue films into book form. The structural aspects of the films have influenced the production of the books, resulting in three different book formats, presented together in a hand-made slip case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

In The Open – ASLE-UKI & Land2 Conference

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As part of the ASLE-UKI & Land2 Conference at Sheffield Institute of the Arts and Bank Street Arts, Gordian Projects will exhibit four publications that coincide with the conference’s themes of Cross, Multi, Inter, Trans collaborative practices that explore place, landscape and environment.

10,500 Miles, Kotryna Juskaite & Kim Lundgren

East Wind, Brian Lewis

Echoes from a Berlin Childhood, Helen Clarke

MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall, Judit Bodor, Emma Bolland & Tom Rodgers

The conference runs from 6th to 28th September across two venues, Sheffield Institute of  Arts and Bank Street Arts, and hosts a range of artists, poets, performers, curators and academics.

New Publication – 10,500 Miles

‘Look, it’s a long way… skewed postcards of a casual photography laying itself out like curling scraps on a tilted pin-board… look, it’s a long way…’

Gordian Projects are proud to announce the arrival of 10,500 Miles, a collaborative work between two artists, exploring photography and collage.

Kotryna Juskaite and Kim Lundgren, recent graduates of Leeds Beckett University, are both photographers and designers who are interested in the exploration of the world around them and how they can extend their studies through experimental collages and book design. We have been excited to work with two young artists who continuing to work and travel together and we look forward to seeing what comes next…

A handmade, open-spine book in full colour reproduction, 10,500 Miles is available for only £18 plus postage and packing.

10,500 Miles

UK orders (£18 + £1.80 postage)

Europe (£18 + £5.25 postage)

Rest of World (£18 + £7.50 postage)

The Independent Publishers Book Fair, Sheffield, Saturday 10th June 2017

We are thrilled to be part of the second Independent Publishers Book Fair in Sheffield on Saturday 10 June 2017

The participating presses include And Other Stories, Comma Press, Dodo Ink, enjoy your homes, Girasol Press, Gordian Projects, Little Island Press, Longbarrow Press, Rachael hand, Spirit Duplicator, The Poetry Business, and Tilted Axis Press. The fair will include handmade artists’ books, poetry, fiction, art writing, literary criticism, zines, and much more.

Performances and readings include the internationally known New York based experimental poets Karen Mac Cormack and Steve McCaffery. The whole day, including the performances and readings, is free!

​Visit the book fair website for more details​: http://independentbookfair.wordpress.com​

Watch the video to meet the presses and performers.

Christmas Special Offer, Audio Recordings, and Collections News

Arcalumis (2016) by Tom Rodgers
Arcalumis (2016) by Tom Rodgers

Between now and Christmas buy any one of our publications: Arcalumis by Tom Rodgers, East Wind by Brian Lewis, Echoes From A Berlin Childhood by Helen Clarke, Lectolalia by Emma Bolland, or the MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall pamphlets by Judit Bodor, Emma Bolland, and Tom Rodgers, and receive a free copy of Place and Memory: an emotional exploration of ‘city’ by eight artists and writers.

Echoes From A Berlin Childhood (2016) by Helen Clarke
Echoes From A Berlin Childhood (2016) by Helen Clarke

We are delighted that our two new photo/text publications, Arcalumis by Tom Rodgers, and Echoes From A Berlin Childhood by Helen Clarke, are now in national collections, including The V&A Art Library, The Saison Poetry Library at The Royal Festival Hall, The Winchester School of Art’s Handling Collection, and the Women’s Walking Library. This means that all of our publications are now in national public collections.

East Wind (2nd edition) by Brian Lewis
East Wind (2nd edition) by Brian Lewis

Brian Lewis has recorded excerpts from ‘The Wind Rose’, a lyric essay based on a walk from Withernsea to Hornsea, north along the Holderness cliffs. This selection begins with an account of the view from Tunstall, the former site of the UK’s most northerly meridian mark. ‘The Wind Rose’ (along with the related lyric essays ‘Half-winds’ and ‘The Compass Rose’) appears in the pamphlet East Wind. Listen below:

 

October Special Offer!

Gordian Projects are delighted to be one of the presses invited to take part in the Small Publishers Fair, Conway Hall, London, Friday 4th and Saturday 6th November. Featuring specialist art and writing presses from Scotland, England, Wales, Denmark, France, The Czech Republic, Germany, Mexico, Ireland, Tokyo, USA, Sweden and the Netherlands, the fair is accompanied by a programme of readings and events.

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As well as showing our current titles, we will be launching two new titles at the fair: Tom Rodger’s two-part Aracalumis, a meditation in abstract analogue photography; and Helen Clarke’s Echoes from a Berlin Childhood, a photo-text poem recording her walks around Berlin in search of Walter Benjamin.

Between now and the Fair we are running a very special ‘two-for-one’ offer: buy any of the following titles: East Wind, Lectolalia, The MilkyWayYouWillHearMeCall pamphlets, and receive a copy of Place and Memory absolutely free. Simply click on the normal ‘buy now’ button, and we will include a copy of Place and Memory in your package.