Sue Dymoke

Poetry: Write, Read, Perform, Listen, Teach

Writing ‘Roaming Range’

The poem ‘Roaming Range’ appears in my 2018 Shoestring Press collection What They Left Behind. During an event at Attenborough Nature Centre and Reserve last November called ‘(Re)connecting with nature through the power of wild words’ (Being Human Festival 2017) I had a conversation with Adam Cormack from The Wildlife Trusts. Adam happened to mention how children’s opportunities to engage with nature at first hand have become so much more restricted in the 21st century. What he called their ‘roaming range’ has been severely curtailed, for many reasons including: concerns about safety, restricted access to outdoor/wild spaces near to home, poverty, school pressures, limited unstructured free time or different ways of spending free hours. It was strange to hear terminology normally associated with mobile phones being linked to children’s freedoms. His comments took me back to my childhood, a place and a time with no house phone or car when we (me and my friends or brother) would think nothing of disappearing on our bikes for hours at a time, going out into the scraggy Hertfordshire lanes, woods and fields around and beyond Stevenage Old Town. The poem began to write itself in my head on the way home:

Roaming range

You roamed wherever your bikes took you

where blackberries grew big and juicy

on railway cuttings, river banks, sunny field edges…

I chose to use the second person in the poem because I thought my memories echoed those of many other children born in the sixties and seventies. I hoped to include everyone in the poem, rather than name specific places or people which might limit the piece to particular situations.

The poem wanted to come out all in one long nearly breathless rush of a sentence. Instinctively, I knew that this was the right form. Although the places, sightings and events within it did not all happen at once (and some frequently reoccurred) together they made a compressed, speeded-up snapshot of a childhood roaming free, getting snagged and stung, hearing and watching nature all round us:    IMG_4473

where a nettle’s sting was only

partly eased by spit-rub of dock leaf

where tadpoles jellied in deep ponds

and bluebells chimed silent songs

under greening beeches

where hair snared in thickets

goose grass stuck to jumpers

I have been reading this poem at launch events recently, along with what I now see is a companion poem: ‘Girls on Swings’. For me, both of these pieces are about freedoms we should revel in, seize, but never ever take for granted.

IMG_4700Below is the whole poem. If you’d like to hear me read ‘Roaming Range’ and other poems from What They Left Behind then come along to Beeston Library on 29th November, 6.30pm. (pdf of library events: Beeston_for_web_with_HLF_logos(1).)

Roaming range

You roamed wherever your bikes took you

where blackberries grew big and juicy

on railway cuttings, river banks, sunny field edges

where ploughs skirted hedgerows

where bedraggled ribbons mixed

with a must of grass clippings and wreath remnants

heaped near the graveyard tap

where rabbits scuttled into siding burrows

and conkers, released from spiked flails,

gleamed on rutted pathways

where out-of-sight cross-country runners

slowed to a smoking stroll

where a nettle’s sting was only

partly eased by spit-rub of dock leaf

where tadpoles jellied in deep ponds

and bluebells chimed silent songs

under greening beeches

where hair snared in thickets

goose grass stuck to jumpers

brambles snagged anoraks

in dank misting twilight

where nobody knew where you were

but home was a quick ride away

when the lure of bangers and mash

became too strong to resist.

2 comments on “Writing ‘Roaming Range’

  1. John Hodgson
    November 20, 2018

    This is great. I’d love to hear it read & sorry I can’t get to Beeston.

    Like

    • Sue Dymoke
      November 25, 2018

      Thanks John. That poems seems to be striking a chord with many readers.

      Like

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