Stanza Stones - Poetry On t' Moors

© Mick Ryan

Is it art or graffiti? Stanza Stones is an unusual collaboration between poet Simon Armitage and Ilkley Literature Festival, in association with imove, a Cultural Olympiad programme in Yorkshire.

'Rain' at Cows Mouth Quarry  © Mick Ryan
'Rain' at Cows Mouth Quarry
© Mick Ryan

It takes poetry from the page out into the landscapes that inspired it.

The project which culminated in June 2012 saw Armitage write a set of poems immersed in the language and landscape of the Pennine Watershed. These have been carved onto stones across the upland by stone artist Pip Hall, forming a permanent 'Poetry Trail' from Armitage's home town of Marsden in the south to the Festival's base in Ilkley.

Each stanza can be visited separately, or combined with the rest in a 47 mile walk; route details are provided here.

'The bread and butter part of the job was to obtain a string of permissions from landowners and statutory bodies such as Natural England, who are rightly watchful of anybody interfering with Sites of Special Scientific Interest' says Landscape Architect Tom Lonsdale, who was brought in to find suitable locations.

'I need not have worried: everyone I asked thought the project a peach and, with a few conditions about bird nesting season, gave all the sites their approval.'

'Once the sites were fixed I started to devise a walking trail. Out came the maps and then the walking boots to check my directions made sense even to inexperienced navigators, then finally a spell on the computer to write it all up and draw some map diagrams.'

'This enchanting project differs from most in my previous forty years as a Landscape Architect but has brought me closer to the land and its spirit than any.'

The seven poem stones are themed around water, appropriately enough: Rain Stone; Beck Stone; Puddle Stone; Mist Stone; Dew Stone; Snow Stone; and a seventh mystery poem in an undisclosed site.

'Those looking hard enough might stumble across a seventh Stanza Stone, a secret stone left in an unnamed location within the Atershed area, waiting to be discovered and read' says Simon Armitage.

We like the Rain Stone at Cows Mouth Quarry:


Be glad of these freshwater tears,

each pearled droplet some salty old sea-bullet

air-lifted out of the waves, then laundered and sieved, recast as a soft bead and returned.

And no matter how much it strafes or sheets, it is no mean feat to catch one raindrop clean in the mouth,

to take one drop on the tongue, tasting cloud-pollen, grain of the heavens, raw sky.

Let it teem, up here where the front of the mind distils the brunt of the world.

The Ilkley Literature Festival runs from 28 September - 14 October.

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30 Jul, 2012
Frankly, I don't give a shit if it's pretty poetry, I'd much rather our limited wild spaces remained untouched as long as possible. I find this depressing.
30 Jul, 2012
Actually, is it all on quarried rock? Doesn't say... I am less depressed if so.
30 Jul, 2012
I still strongly disagree with this whole project. The quarries are no longer worked, I was outraged to hear hammer and chissel whilst soloing one quiet afternoon. The fact that the chissel was being used for what is clamed as an artistic project changes nothing in my mind. This is now a permenant feature on the rock, in a rock type that most of us do our upmost to minimise our impact upon.
30 Jul, 2012
It's possibly not 'art' but I think it's great. Looks much nicer than a load of chalked holds one could argue.
30 Jul, 2012
So, if I went up to Millstone with a hammer and chisel, with permission of the landowners, and wrote a verse from "I've got a lovely bunch of coconuts" on the embankment wall, That'd be cool with you guys? After the massive uproar of dry tooling scratches a few years ago, I think this is tremendously worse in comparison.
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