Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The novel's cover - rerun with a new poem, 'Roads.'

Paul Nash, Road over Berkshire Downs.
(Not the one Hollis chose.)

Frank of StreetBooks gave me a fairly free hand in choosing an image for the cover but was clear that his designer must agree to it.
I had always envisaged a Paul Nash picture: Nash was in the Artists Rifles with Edward Thomas and they were kind-of friends. Also most recent books about ET have used Nash - notably Edna Longley's marvellous Annotated Collected Poems, 2008.
The best-laid plans - I wanted a landscape reflecting downland, but I found the only one really suitable had just been used by Matthew Hollis on his Selected Poems of Edward Thomas.

Then I began thinking about May Hill - an inspiration to Thomas and Frost, and I discovered Valerie Mclean (info@ValerieMcLean.com) of Ledbury. Valerie was lovely, very helpful, even created a new collage/painting for me, but I felt it wasn't right, far too bright and cheerful for Edward Thomas.
Frank had an open mind.
Marc my husband had painted May Hill after we'd been there for my research and he still had one of the pictures.

Marc Thompson

Frank took Marc's painting and Valerie's image to his designer, Andrew Chapman (mail@awrc.co.uk)

Andrew chose Marc's, had it professionally photographed with high definition and was ready to go ahead. Frank was unsure about the sheep but as he lived with the painting for several weeks they grew on him and stayed. Andrew cleverly extended the colour around the back cover and inserted the wording as I had envisaged. I think it looks beautiful and others who have seen the image do too.
I was in Malvern last Sunday with fliers(of that later) and the response from the locals was 'That's May Hill,' and 'Lovely picture.' So that's good.

January '13 - It was a good choice as it turns out - everyone likes the book's appearance and feel.

Poem - the great 'Roads' - it inspired the title of both Matthew Hollis's 'Now All Roads lead to France' and Robert MacFarlane's 'The Old Ways.' And how moving that he echoed the verse, penultimate below, in some of the last words he wrote in France, when Hell was all  around him.
Almost every stanza is a complete idea and reflection. Here is the first part:

I LOVE roads:
The goddesses that dwell
Far along invisible
Are my favourite gods.

Roads go on
While we forget, and are
Forgotten like a star
That shoots and is gone.

On this earth 'tis sure
We men have not made
Anything that doth fade
So soon, so long endure:

The hill road wet with rain
In the sun would not gleam
Like a winding stream
If we trod it not again.

They are lonely
While we sleep, lonelier
For lack of the traveller
Who is now a dream only.

From dawn's twilight
And all the clouds like sheep
On the mountains of sleep
They wind into the night.

The next turn may reveal
Heaven: upon the crest                                             

The close pine clump, at rest
And black, may Hell conceal.

Often footsore, never
Yet of the road I weary,
Though long and steep and dreary
As it winds on for ever.

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