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Book Review: Beyond the Fell Wall by Richard Skelton

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Skelton, R. (2015) Beyond the Fell Wall, Little Toller Books ISBN 978 1 908213 29 7

Richard Skelton is a musician, poet, publisher.

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This exquisite edition, a small book with grand ambitions is another in the outstanding Little Toller Monograph series and reflects Skelton’s half decade living in a valley in the weatherworn Furness Hills of Cumbria.

The book, an extended prose poem in 31 sections, is a distillation of landscape and experience. A beautifully written meditation on the animate life of a landscape, a language (the naming of names) and sound (Skelton has a musician’s ear for the melodies of the moorlands unseen movements).

Beyond the Fell Wall is both a drawing out and drawing together of research, close observation, empathy and imagination. It reflects an interest in folklore and mythology, sentience and animism. And, at its heart is the dry-stone fell wall – more than a vast and serpentine boundary holding back the civilization of the sheep from the wildness of moor, Skelton’s fell wall bristles with life containing stories and myths; a dry stone marker of death, history and imagination.

Blank or concrete verse; historical paragraphs; winding lists of Cumbrian place names, Beyond the Fell Wall pushes at the boundaries of landscape and nature writing. In Skelton’s world words and stone fuse in the crucible of landscape. Bracken, sheep skulls, ferns, nettles, mosses, decaying, straying, drifting, meandering, marking the wall as a transition point where man meets land. It’s wonderful. Graceful. A grace-filled and optimistic book to savour.

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