I had some lingering doubts when 'Edgelands' was first published. Two poets trying to expose some of the wildnerness areas - and especially in the north west - that I'd come to regard as my own. Lyrical when lyricism just wasn't there or just an attempt to tart them up for wider public exposure. Rather selfish now I come to think about it - a bit like being really annoyed when somebody reveals a magically secluded and jealously guarded holiday spot.
Paul Farley and Michael Symmons Roberts: to you I apologise. What convinced me to buy the book and to recommend it to others was your compelling reading on Radio Four's Book of the Week at the end of April. (I tuned in at 9.45 in the morning and, to the repeat at 12.30 at night when it was a delightful preface to the shipping forecast.)
In the opening chapter, the authors gave credit to where credit's due - to Richard Mabey for the originality of his work nearly 40 years ago, to Alan Berger's 'Drosscope' where the edgelands were set out in a uniquely American way, and to Marion Shoard who did what we'd all like to have done and added the word to our lexicon.
I've noticed, probably only in the last 12 months, how often real ctitics and reviewers of the arts have referred to something that's just a bit different or with a hint, perhaps, of the avant-garde as 'edgy'. Farley and Symmons Roberts have gone a lot further than that in taking us into places where we may once have hesitated to ventue. they have brought to us a new regard for often marginal areas which might have been dismissed as ugly, even threatening, wasteland.
For me, edgelands were often deserted marshalling yards leading from railway tracks, overgrown and neglected cemetries, abandoned pits or forelorn bakeries regarded as surplus to the requirements of the modern consumer. Readers of 'Edgelands' will make their own choice from the 28 categories that Farley and Symmons Roberts include in their book. Each one offers a different insight, a new perspective and a reminder that there is far more to England's sometimes not so green and pleasant land than perhaps we once thought. Sorry, I doubted you gentlemen and I'm delighted to put the record straight.
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